Tennessee Gas Tax Revenue Pays for Work on Private Property

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Members of the Grundy County Highway Department used some of the Tennessee gas tax revenue to work on other people’s private properties, and that’s against state law, according to a state audit released Thursday.

One of those properties was a farm where the highway superintendent kept cattle — even though he didn’t own the land. This work, which included bulldozing stumps, among other things, went on for nine years, Comptrollers said.

“The highway superintendent did not lease the farm nor did the owner charge him rent on the farm for the period he has used it,” according to the audit.

“The highway superintendent stated that he began using the farm when he purchased the individual’s cattle.”

Highway Department employees also bulldozed a wooded area at another farm. The owner of that property, Comptrollers went on to say, was acquainted with the highway superintendent.

Comptrollers said they didn’t know if the property owner paid the highway superintendent for the work.

Grundy County Mayor Michael Brady told The Tennessee Star he only learned of the findings Thursday morning.

“It’s a mayor’s job to be a good steward and be compliant with Grundy County’s assets and funds,” Brady said.

“I’m sure the county commissioners will seek a legal opinion on this. That’s all I’ve got to say right now.”

The Grundy County Highway Department is based in Tracy City. Department officials maintain all Grundy County roads. The highway superintendent, meanwhile, is an elected county official with a four-year term.

The department does not receive any county property tax revenue but instead gets money from local and state gasoline fuel taxes.

The state of Tennessee collects this tax revenue. A portion of that money goes back to the county.

Comptrollers also called out members of the county’s highway department for working at several private cemeteries.

“We observed a highway department low-boy truck and trailer, a bulldozer, and a track-hoe at one cemetery,” Comptrollers wrote.

“It appeared the equipment had been located at the area for quite some time, and that a wooded area had been cleared, but we could not determine the full extent of the work performed.”

The superintendent told Comptrollers he worked on several cemeteries in the county, but he did not receive any money for the work.

Comptrollers also called out members of the department for maintaining a portion of a private road owned by a department employee and for working on their personal vehicles in the department garage during work hours.

Comptrollers reported finding one employee’s vehicle in the garage with the bed removed from the frame. They later saw someone placed the bed back on that frame.

“We asked the highway superintendent who the vehicle belonged to, and he named an employee and stated they used the lift to replace the fuel pump on the trucks,” Comptrollers wrote.

“In addition, we asked an employee what work had been performed on the truck, and he stated that the fuel pump had been changed, and the frame had been painted.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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