County Spending Audit: Mayor Defends Fix, Questions Findings

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says that any county worker caught misusing your tax dollars, by deliberately charging personal travel, food or fun on county-issued, credit cards will have to pay the money back, and either resign or be fired.

One worker did, more than a week ago.

But Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd reports, both mayor, and county commissioners have new questions about the audit that uncovered the trouble.

“How did this happen on your watch?” asks WNOX radio host Hallerin Hilton Hill.

“It's the whole system and culture thinking it's okay to charge gasoline and local meals,” a caller says.

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale takes more than an hour of questions, and criticism over county-issued credit cards.

“So why aren't you doing the same for the public?” another caller asks.

“I did!” replies Mayor Ragsdale.

What frustrates him more, “I've never seen a professional audit handled this way.”

In writing, he claims that giving the audit to media and County Commissioners before he had a chance to review it, not only compromises the process, but undermines confidence in its accuracy.

“I have utmost confidence in our auditor and I think he's right on target with what he said about everything,” says Commissioner Paul Pinkston.

Mayor Ragsdale says auditors have mischaracterized a $20,000 expense account he gets, on top
of his County issued SUV.

“It's laid out as a line item. The Commission votes on it every year. To say that's a travel supplement is simply a falsehood,” says Ragsdale.

Ditto, he says, for three Senior Aides, who the Auditor's draft claims haven't documented how they spent $12,000 each is allotted, on top of their county issued cars.

“We've gone back and rolled every one of those into salary, so it will show exactly what it shows,” Ragsdale says.

“Why did they take it back? Why did they stop giving it, if it was proper?” Commissioner Pinkston argues.

Commissioner Paul Pinkston plans to ask the District Attorney to look into all of it.

“I have great confidence in Randy Nichols, if he wants to go forward with that, it's certainly his prerogative,” says Ragsdale.

Actually, Special Counsel John Gill says, the DA's office could slow the truth coming out, if it gets involved now, what with fears over subpoenas and criminal charges.

Better he says, to let its work the legal process, through the state Controller’s Office.

How long that could take isn't clear.

Knox County's final audit could be out in two weeks.

Sources tell Volunteer TV News any criminal wrongdoing uncovered may require a special prosecutor, given the potential for conflict of interest.

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