CHEATHAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The annual audit of Cheatham County for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022 found multiple issues in how the Cheatham County School District used funds.
In a Tuesday news release, the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury reported seven audit findings— four of which were related to the Cheatham County School District.
Among the findings, comptroller auditors reported that fuel cards were “misused by the school district’s transportation department.” According to the Comptroller’s Office, the fraudulent charges totaled $59,788.95.
However, the Comptroller’s Office said some of that money was reimbursed. As of Jan. 14, 2022, the district had been reimbursed $30,015.42 by its fleet card management company.
The Comptroller’s Office said the school department’s “failure to have written policies and procedures regarding the use of fuel cards” led to the misuse of funds. The net loss totaled $29,774.
The Cheatham County School District disputed many of the findings in the report, including the misuse of fuel cards, in an emailed statement.
The school district said the fraudulent charges occurred after two credit cards used for school bus fuel purchases were skimmed when used at a local business. The thieves then reportedly used the card information at other locations in Middle Tennessee.
“The district was able to catch most of this activity and turned it over to law enforcement,” the statement read. “The district has additional checks and balances in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”
Auditors also found the Cheatham County director of schools was paid a $9,000 bonus from grant funds. Although the director’s bonus met federal documentation requirements, the Comptroller’s Office said it was not approved by the school board.
The bonus resulted in her income exceeding her employment contract amount. The school district further disputed the findings in the report, stating that the money “was not a bonus.”
According to the school district, the stipend for the director of schools was for work, travel and food related expenses for her after-hours work on a consortium created to provide oversight of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) guidelines.
The consortium was created through an ESSER planning grant, which the school district said was provided by the Tennessee Department of Education. The grant provides stipends for all team members for after-hours work.
“The School Board was not required to vote on the stipend per the State Comptroller’s Office,” the school district said in its statement. “The School Board has been aware of this situation, which was recommended by the State Comptroller’s Office to address the finding.”
Comptroller auditors also reported poor accounting and capital asset management in the school department.
Other findings in the report include a failure to issue prenumbered receipts and separate financial responsibilities within the county’s ambulance service and a failure to perform daily system backups in the Office of Building and Codes.
The Comptroller’s Office included recommendations to address each of the seven audit findings in its report, and the county has provided a Corrective Action Plan to address the issues.
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“For many years our office has recommended that Cheatham County adopt a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “This is a best practice that would centralize the funds administered by the county mayor, road superintendent, and school department under one office. We believe this would significantly improve accountability and the quality of services provided to the citizens of Cheatham County.”
If you suspect fraud, waste, or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at 800-232-5454, or file a report online at tncot.cc/fraud.