Claiborne County sheriff’s officers and county inmates sold scrap metal to a private vendor for personal gain while on litter patrol and got more than $20,000 for it, according to an audit Comptrollers released Friday.
That’s against Tennessee law.
Investigators reviewed records from July 1, 2016 through June 30 of last year, the audit said.
“Sheriff’s litter patrol officers and inmates told investigators it was a long-established practice for the litter patrol to gather scrap metal from county convenience centers, road rights-of-way, and residents’ property, and sell the scrap metal to buy inmates on litter patrol lunches, snacks, drinks, and tobacco products,” auditors wrote.
“We could not locate and interview all prior inmates who worked on litter patrol about this practice; therefore, we could not verify the exact amount of cash that was received and how it was always used. The scrap metal vendor kept records of most litter patrol transactions, listing the names of the inmates and sheriff’s litter patrol officers that received cash from the sales.”
Comptrollers said they determined cash transactions often occurred several times a week and ranged in amounts from $2.10 to $385.70.
“According to inmates and sheriff’s officers interviewed, usually one inmate would collect cash from a sale and bring it to the litter patrol truck, where it was maintained and informally accounted for by officers,” Comptrollers wrote.
“State law requires that payments for scrap metal sold by a governmental entity be made by check or money order to the governmental entity and mailed to the business address of the governmental entity.”
The failure to follow state law, a Comptrollers press release went on to say, has resulted in lost revenue for the county.
The Comptroller’s Office has reviewed its investigation with the district attorney general for the Eight Judicial District and the district attorney general pro tem for the Thirteenth Judicial District.
The Claiborne County Sheriff’s Office is currently depositing checks from the sale of scrap metal with the county trustee.