Finance Director Resigns Amid Purchase Card Scandal

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - New fallout, from the Knox County charge card scandal, a mayor's assistant is being transferred and a senior manager has resigned.

Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd tells us, this is far from the end of it.

Senior Finance Director John Werner gets credit for saving Knox County taxpayers more than 13 million dollars by refinancing bonds.

He's losing his six-figure job, over $2,200 he charged for wining and dining lawmakers and business prospects.

And apparently for not questioning or catching others who've done likewise.

“I think everybody should be treated equally,” says Commissioner Paul Pinkston.

“I think there's a big difference in trying to do some business on behalf of Knox County, and things getting out of hand a bit, than there is in charging trips you had no intention, or we got any indication you'd reimburse us,” says Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale won't say whether he'd have fired Senior Finance Director John Werner if he hadn't quit, but in his written reprimand last week, he told Werner role as watchdog means he should have set, “the highest standard of avoidance”.

“I accepted Mr. Werner's resignation and I'm leaving it at that,” says Mayor Ragsdale.

Ragsdale won't call Assistant Margie Loyd's reassignment, punishment for charging a cruise and a lobster dinner.

Her 8-month-old reprimand cost her her card, but called her record otherwise spotless

“She's got some great talents and people skills, so we're going to put her into an area where she can be successful,” Ragsdale says.

“What he's doing is the correct thing, he's taking the card back, getting them under control, getting the department back under his control,” says Commissioner Ivan Harmon.

Others insist it could have, should have, come sooner.

“I feel like our auditor's been stonewalled, yes,” Commissioner Pinkston says. “Asking for information we couldn't get, taking days to get it, so that's why he released the audit early.”

Pinkston won't say whether he believes that early release affected how the Mayor's handled the charge card crisis since.

But as of now, “We're looking at every charge that's been made between 2002 and right now,” the mayor says.

Problems, he says, will go to the state comptroller and, he repeats, the DA to look at criminal charges.

But Randy Nichols says he may bow out.

“First, the County Commission, the Mayor has something to do with about a third of my budget, so I suspect the citizens would be leery of the fox guarding the henhouse theory one more time,” Knox County District Attorney Randy Nichols says.

That means a specially appointed, attorney general pro tempore would prosecute any crimes uncovered or alleged.

The mayor has appointed Knox County Comptroller John Troyer as senior compliance officer, to triple check purchase card spending.

He's also considered Werner's replacement.

John Werner is no longer a manager, but he remains a Knox County employee until September first, his fifth anniversary.

He'll be fully vested for a county pension, when he retires at 65.


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