by Jon Styf
A Tennessee Comptroller Office’s annual financial report of Haywood County had nine findings of deficiency for the second consecutive year.
Four of the findings in the report were a repeat of last year’s audit, which had found five of the nine findings were repeated from the previous year.
“A repeated finding indicates county management’s unwillingness or inability to correct a finding from the previous annual audit report,” the comptroller’s report read.
The findings included issues on everything from an $800,000 deficit in the county’s Solid Waste Disposal Fund and improper reporting of spending to two investigations related to the county’s government and finances.
“Haywood County must take steps to improve its government operations,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower said. “Last year, Tennessee counties averaged three audit findings in their annual reports. Haywood County has had nine findings for two years in a row. With new opportunities on the horizon for West Tennessee, Haywood County officials must demonstrate a commitment to strong financial management and internal controls.”
The waste finance issue, which was a repeated offense, is related to the county’s landfill. State statutes require the county to have $1.7 million on hand to cover the cost of closing the landfill and monitor it for 30 years.
“In meeting with the representatives of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, a current amount necessary to make such closure was agreed,” Haywood County Mayor David Livingston told the Comptroller’s Office. “To put aside $1.7 million dollars as designated funds would cause an undue tax burden to the taxpayers of Haywood County.”
Other issues included unauthorized spending in seven of the 48 areas of funding appropriations. Livingston agreed with the issues, stating that the former budget director, who is under investigation, did not properly amend the budget.
If there are findings from the separate investigation of the budget director, those will be released in the future by the comptroller’s office.
The county also was found to have collected drug court fees without operating a drug court and keeping the funds, which are supposed to be sent to the state.
Budget changes to the school fund were not approved by the county commission and fraudulent checks for $32,367 were made from the Elma Ross Public Library account.
Livingston agreed with the remainder of the findings.
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Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Styf is a reporter at The Center Square.
Background Photo “Haywood County Courthouse” by Thomas R Machnitzki. CC BY 3.0.