Hamilton County Debates Wisdom of Using Taxpayer Money on Charities

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Hamilton County commissioners are reportedly considering whether it’s wise to take taxpayer money and donate it to various charities.

This, according to The Chattanooga Times Free Press.

“In light of a recent controversial donation from several members of the commission and ahead of pending legislation to tighten rules regarding individual travel and discretionary funds, commissioners, the county mayor and watchdogs are weighing the benefits of allowing donations from commission funds. September donations by five commissioners to the Harrison Ruritan Club were returned by the club last month after an order by the commission to use the $4,000 from county funds to benefit a church program designed to feed kids in need,” according to the paper.

“Since the commission is not allowed to donate directly to a church, the club returned the donation to avoid facilitating a potential violation of state law. While the money was returned and reinstated to the appropriate district funds, the hiccup resurfaced ongoing discussions about the propriety of the funds, even when used correctly, among the commission and the public.”

The Times Free Press quoted District 4 Commissioner Warren Mackey argued as saying “using taxpayer dollars to help the taxpayers is exactly our job as commissioners.”

The paper went on to say that “commissioners can donate their individual district’s funds to nonprofits — if approved by a majority of the commission — and any unspent money rolls over to that same district’s fund for the next fiscal year.”

As The Tennessee Star reported in August, Country music star Brad Paisley used $1.5 million of the Tennessee taxpayers’ money to establish a new nonprofit.

Members of the Tennessee Department of Human Services bestowed that money on Paisley and his nonprofit, a grocery store that encourages low-income people to buy healthy food.

Earlier this year, though, Paisley implied this money — for what he calls “The Store” — would come entirely from the private sector.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Hamilton County Commissioners” by Hamilton County Commissioners. 





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4 Thoughts to “Hamilton County Debates Wisdom of Using Taxpayer Money on Charities”

  1. Randy

    There are non profits dedicated to increasing the amount of government funding they receive by increasing the number of other non profits they give money to. Local governments employ people full time to find creative ways to spend ever increasing amounts of money through Grant Funding of non profits.

  2. Randy

    According to the IRS and publicly available data, Knox County has over 3,500 registered non profits. They have over 13 Billion dollars in assets. Their annual revenue is just over 4 Billion dollars. Their level of usefulness, transparency, and ability to operate within federal guidelines is a crapshoot. They are not only free from the burden of paying taxes but funded largely by local, state or federal tax dollars. They employ thousands of people whose salary ranges from unpaid volunteers to full salaried, health care and retirement benefitted individuals. There is an old adage (not very well known but old just the same) If you want to steal money, establish a non-profit. Anyone under the impression that their government or the IRS is providing proper oversight of the Non-Profit sector is also under the impression that government should be funding it. Don’t expect, Inspect!

  3. CMinTN

    It is not the proper role of gov’t to bestow my forcibly taken taxes and in turn gift it to charities. If I choose to donate my hard earned money to a charity, then I will do so directly after vetting said charity. The gov’t seems to be to close to many of these causes as we see with foreign aid such as that given away by the likes of USAID, N.E.D., and the State Dept. A lot of potential for money laundering.

    1. 83ragtop50

      CMinTN, you hit the nail directly on the head.