DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Dickson County Director of Schools received an “unauthorized” amount of pay through federal grant money, a Tennessee Comptroller’s audit of the Dickson County government has found.
The Comptroller’s office released its annual audit of the Dickson County government Tuesday, highlighting five different findings that “outline issues of noncompliance and lack of internal controls within the government.”
Per the report, the Dickson County Director of Schools was paid $13,700 from federal grant money, which was not part of his contractual agreement with the Dickson County Board of Education. Additionally, the extra pay was not properly approved by the board during the fiscal year, the Comptroller’s Office said in a release.
“The director of schools entered into an employment contract with the board of education detailing job responsibilities, compensation, and fringe benefits for the term of each contract period. During the audit period, the director was paid $13,700 from grand funds that were not part of the contractual agreement or formally approved by the board of education,” the report details. “This unauthorized compensation resulted from the failure to follow the terms of the contract.”
Auditors recommended the school board “determine the propriety of the payments to the director of schools.”
Per the report, the Dickson County Board of Education said it “acknowledges that Dickson County Schools has received the ESSER Planning Grant, that the Director of Schools and other staff are receiving compensation for work according to the grant documents, that work is being performed outside of normal work hours, that such work is permissible under the Director of Schools’ contract and that such work does not interfere with the performance of duties.”
Auditors, however, said they “did not find evidence that the Board of Education acknowledged the Director of Schools was receiving additional compensation for work according to the grant documents.”
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“In addition,” auditors said in the report, “a determination by the board as to whether the work interfered or conflicted with the discharge of the director’s normal duties and responsibilities was not provided.”
Dickson County Director of Schools Danny Weeks issued a statement on the audit findings.
“We will always gladly work with the Office of the Comptroller’s Office to correct any finding,” he said in the statement. “This grant was both approved and highlighted by the Tennessee Department of Education. Additionally, my participation in the grant was approved by the Dickson County Board of Education. We believe the payment under this grant was proper under the conditions specified under the provisions of my contract of employment and by the department.”
In addition to the director’s “unauthorized pay,” the audit found the director also “did not require a depository to adequately collateralize funds” in accordance with state law.
Per the report, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 5-8-201 provides for county officials to require any bank that is a depository of county funds to deposit in an escrow account in a second bank collateral security equal to 105% of the uninsured portion of such county funds.
During the audit period, the director reportedly failed to require a depository holding school funds pledge adequate securities to protect funds that exceeded FDIC coverage. In December 2021, deposits exceeded FDIC coverage and collateral securities pledged in amounts up to $1,395,769, auditors said.
“This deficiency was the result of a lack of management oversight,” the report stated. “The failure to adequately collateralized funds could result in a loss for the school department.”
The director concurred with the finding and the auditors’ recommendation to require all depositories to pledge adequate securities to protect school department funds, calling the amount “an unusual anonymous donation that was received at the end of the calendar year.”
“There was discussion with the depository at the time with the understanding it would become Trustee funds at some point,” the director said in response. “It was discussed thoroughly during the exit conference with an understanding of how to handle should we be privileged to receive such a donation again.”
The report also found that the school system exceeded appropriations for the Central Cafeteria Fund by $110,884. State law requires all appropriations by local governments, including local school systems, to match what is budgeted for the fiscal year. The audit said the “deficiency exists because management failed to hold spending to the limits authorized by the county commission, which resulted in unauthorized expenditures.”
The school system said the situation was brought to the auditor’s attention prior to the audit period beginning, when it was discovered during the closing of the accounting records for FY22.
Other findings in the report came from the County Clerk’s Office and the Mayor’s Office. Per the report, the county mayor’s office finding noted a cash shortage of $1,945.02 that existed in the office of solid waste. In the county clerk’s office, the report noted access to a deposit was not properly secured.
In the case of the solid waste fund, the report found the shortage occurred “due to weakness in controls over bank deposits,” and the finding was reviewed with the District Attorney General’s Office. In the case of the county clerk’s office, the county clerk discovered a missing deposit of $3,115.88 on April 28, 2022. The clerk then filed a police report and fraud reporting form. It was discovered the deposit was left unsecured in a separate room of the office.
“Investigators determined that inmates assigned to help move items in the office had stolen the funds. The entire amount was recovered and deposited into the office bank account,” the audit said. “The theft resulted from internal control weaknesses related to securing bank deposits in the office.”
The county clerk concurred with the finding and submitted a corrective action plan to prevent similar incidents.
The full audit report can be viewed HERE.