MASON, Tenn. — The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury made a rare stop in Mason, Tennessee this week, urging town leaders to give up Mason’s charter or be taken over by the state.
Tennessee State Comptroller Jason Mumpower said it was meant to be a wake up call for the Tipton County town of a little over 1,200.
“The town of Mason has had mismanagement and financial trouble for many years now,” said John Dunn, Director of Communications with the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. “I think it was certainly somewhat unique to see the comptroller in their town, but it also sent a message this was a very serious situation”
For years, WREG has reported about the financial and legal woes plaguing the small town of Mason, Tennessee. From questionable audits, to elected officials indicted by the state for fraud, waste and abuse.
The state is urging Mason’s elected officials to relinquish the town’s charter, un-incorporate and be folded into Tipton County government.
The other option is for the state to take over.
“The Comptroller’s Office would have the final say on every expenditure that is made within the town of Mason and that is a difficult place to be,” Dunn said. “It’s something we don’t do very often.”
The prospect of giving up Mason’s charter has stirred emotions at City Hall.
“We can and we will fight for our charter,” Vice Mayor Virginia Rivers said.
Rivers questioned the timing of the comptroller’s visit, saying the state is getting serious now because Mason sits so close to where Ford’s Blue Oval City will be built.
“My main concern is that they allowed this to go on for so many years and now that the mega site is coming, it seems like it’s a problem, and it’s a big problem,” Vice-Mayor Rivers said.
The State Comptroller’s Office admitting Mason’s history of mismanagement presents a negative image.
“Opportunity will pass it by because outside companies, outside groups, aren’t going to want to invest in a community where they know there is a history of mismanagement,” Dunn said.
“We inherited what already had happened. We came in trying to fix it and without the help of anyone we have struggled, and yes we have made progress,” Vice Mayor Rivers said.
Rivers said the current administration is working to pay bills on time, but admits the community took a huge economic hit when the West Tennessee Detention Facility closed last year.
The town lost hundreds of jobs and the town’s biggest rate payer for water and sewer fees.
There was no deadline mentioned for when Mason’s leaders must decide.