Comptroller's Role: Help or Take Over?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - Knox County’s Auditor and Law Director say questions over how the county is spending your tax dollars are more than they can handle alone.

Volunteer TV’s Gordon Boyd says they'll be asking the Tennessee Comptroller's Office for more help than it's provided from the get-go.

They've put it in writing Wednesday night, after a meeting with the Comptroller Tuesday.

Specifically, they want more bodies, Knox County has only three internal auditors, more brains to analyze what they find, and more cover so nobody can call this political payback.

But some commissioners wonder whether that's enough.

“I want this not just the Mayor's Office, I want every P-card looked at, I want all the travel allowances looked at.” Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond says taxpayer's out-rage over county credit card charges and lobster lunches not only demands an outside, independent watchdog. The Tennessee Comptroller's Office should be lead dog.

“Whatever those costs are, as long as they're reasonable, and I'm sure they will be, I think we need to go ahead and bite the bullet and bring them in,” Commissioner Hammond says.

“I think that's a fine idea if it makes them happy, and we would encourage it and welcome it,” says Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

For now, the Comptroller's Office says it hasn't found anything that demands it take over for Knox County's own auditors.

“We will be providing technical assistance. We will be monitoring the work as he goes forward with this,” says Richard Norment from the Comptroller’s Office. “Where that might lead us, I would not speculate on where it would go.”

Several County Commissioners have demanded it should lead to Community Services Director Cynthia Finch, already reprimanded for lax oversight of her assistant's county purchasing card.

Her assistant resigned after paying Knox County back for trips, rooms meals and gas.

New questions concern companies Finch founded or consulted. They get County grant money.

“Ms. Finch's organizations, when you look at them, are providing outstanding services to inner city children and inner city mothers. Her programs should be encouraged, not slandered, so I think she's been a victim of that,” says Mayor Ragsdale.

Hammond believes somebody ought be looking at it, “If it's proper for the ethics committee to look at it, I'll be more than happy to have the ethics committee look at it.”

“Certainly, to confirm disbursements, you may have to go outside Knox County government to do that,” Norment says.

In other words, if trails lead to Finch connected companies, state investigators will follow.

“Still have full confidence in her?” Boyd asks the mayor.

“Absolutely!” he replies.

More state help, if it comes, will have a price.

Not 50 or 100 thousand dollars, the law director says, but there is a fee.

Legally, county commissioners don't have to sign off on this, but this request will come at their next meeting on the 27th.

They'll likely vote on a resolution, that would set how much the comptroller would be paid, and for what.

More on the Purchase Card Investigation

6/25/2007

  • Audit at Mayor's Office Reveals Questionable Spending

    7/3/2007

  • Knox County Employee Repays Personal Spending, Resigns

    7/6/2007

  • Ragsdale Takes Blame for Questionable Spending

    7/12/2007

  • County Spending Audit: Mayor Defends Fix, Questions Findings

    7/13/2007

  • Finance Director Resigns Amid Purchase Card Scandal

    7/25/2007

  • Former Ragsdale Assistant Submits Resignation

    7/26/2007

  • Commissioners Call for Deeper Probe on Purchase Cards

    8/6/2007

  • Former Ragsdale Aide Files Discrimination Complaint


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