COMMENTARY: Comptroller REACHes Out And Convicts King

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There is an unusual aspect to a Special Report released by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury's office about the Cannon County REACH After-School Program.

Which is, why was the Special Report released now?

In the report, issued on Feb. 29, the former executive director of REACH, Angela King, is accused of misusing funds she allegedly took from the program.

However, a press release put out to the media and public by the Comptroller's Office along with the report goes beyond simply accusing King. It is entitled:

"Former After-School Program Director in Cannon County Took Public Funds for Personal Use"

In other words, she stole taxpayer's money and spent it on herself or others not associated with REACH. She's quilty, according to the Comptroller's report and press release.

The press release is unusual because it is rare for a government agency to state flatly that a person has committed a criminal activity before that person has been charged, prosecuted and convicted.

Normally a government agency such as the Comptroller's Office only does so after some type of legal action has been taken by a law enforcement agency or a grand jury, in the form of a warrant or an indictment. Even then a person is only alleged to have committed, or is suspected of having committed, a crime.

In addition to containing no information that King has been charged or arrested for allegedly committing a crime or crimes, the press release and report do not actually mention her by name. She is referred to repeatedly as "executive director" but never named. However, in that she served as executive director for around a decade, there is no doubt King is the person not specifically identified.

A review of many press releases and special reports found on the Comptroller's website of similar activities which have occurred in other Tennessee counties show they almost always include the name of the alleged offender and that he or she has already been charged, indicted and/or arrested, unless they admit inappropriate activities to auditors.

There is no information in the press release or report that King has admitted to any wrongdoings.

Whether intended or not, a government agency - the Comptroller's Office - has convicted, in the form of a public statement, a citizen of a crime, without that person having the opportunity to challenge the evidence, put forth a defense, and having their fate determined by a jury or judge.

Doing so will certainly make it more difficult for King to get a fair trial in the local judicial district, which includes Cannon and Rutherford counties, since the release was widely published in both locations.

It appears this could be a case of premature overREACHing by the Comptroller, and it makes one wonder why, and why now? King was removed as executive director in November of 2010. The last alleged financial transgression noted in the Special Report occurred the previous month.

It's taken over 15 months to get to this point. What difference would a few more months of waiting for the DA to review the findings and present a case to a grand jury have made?
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March 04, 2012 at 1:10pm
Kevin, wouldn't the statement by Mike Gannon in your article “The Buck Stops Here” basically be the same thing as what you say the Comptrollers Report is implying?

I quote:

"This report simply highlights what became clear to us over a year ago, which is that we put too much trust in the director of a county agency, and that person abused that trust. We regret that, because HER actions brought harm to a program that has helped hundreds of Cannon County's children and their parents over the years."


"When I first became aware of the seriousness of the problems with the way money was being handled at REACH in November of 2010, I immediately took steps," Gannon said. "I replaced the director and made changes to the way money was being accounted for. I brought in an outside auditor to assist in the process and I am positive the program is on the right track.”

Mike mentions “her actions” and that could only mean there is no doubt King is the person not specifically identified as well.

I personally didn’t take either the statements Mike made or the Comptroller’s Report to be malicious or derogatory. I simply took the report and Mike’s statement that there needed to be a change because of obvious mishandling of monies and the change was made at Mike’s direction because of the findings of the report.

When you read the Comptroller’s Report concerning REACH it even mentions that the County Executive’s Office does not refute any of the findings.

I don’t think either Mike or the Comptroller’s Office was trying to convict anyone. I think they both just stated facts that are very provable based off falsified documents, multiple reimbursements for the same items, proof that the jail provided three meals a day to inmates working the Good Ole Days, etc. etc.

I am not sure I am following you on why the Comptroller’s Office would wait a few more months to release the report. When I watched Channel 4 news on Wednesday night the auditor stated that the report was “final and it was now up to the D.A. to determine any legal actions” from this point forward.

Once it went final why would you think they needed to wait a few months to release the report?
March 04, 2012 at 1:53pm
Corey, because the Comptroller does not have the power to charge, indict, or prosecute anyone. Is there not a presumption of innocence in this country? Gannon took a risk when he let King go, but he did not accuse or charge her of any crime. Gannon was responding to a press release. The Comptroller's press release states, without the presumption of innocence, that she is guilty of having committed crimes.
March 04, 2012 at 1:53pm
I am not trying to argue with you, but couldn't the same thing be said by the Cannon Courier's own headlines concerning Ms. King?

Again, I quote:
“Report Reveals King-Sized Problems At REACH”

If I am to believe that Ms. King could not get a reasonable and fair trial because of a statement that the Comptrollers report made, why wouldn’t I think the same thing about the headline on the Cannon Courier website in the town she worked in?

The Cannon Courier does not have the power to charge, indict or prosecute anyone either, but the headline could be implied as she was guilty of misconduct in some way. I didn't take it that way, but someone could.

There have been over 2000 views to the articles “The Buck Stops Here” and to “Report Reveals King-Sized Problems At REACH”, so I think the Courier has made a huge impact on finding an impartial jury in Cannon County as well.

But listen, I am not finding fault in your reporting it or the Comptroller’s Report releasing the information. I think both the Courier and the Comptroller’s Report were necessary and newsworthy.

Yes I agree with you 100% that Ms. King is innocent until proven guilty. I just don’t find fault in the Comptroller’s Report, Mike’s decision to relieve Ms. King from her duties as Director of Reach or the Courier reporting all of it.
March 04, 2012 at 2:02pm
"Problems" do not always equate to crimes. The Courier has been careful to only allege that King committed crimes. The headline of the press release states that she committed crimes, no presumption of innocence expressed. That is a significant distinction when it comes from a government agency.
March 04, 2012 at 2:24pm
People will read what they want to read into headlines by the Courier, the story you wrote and even the report by the Comptroller.

Common sense should guide them to come to the correct conclusion and if pursued legally we will all know the details and outcome soon enough.

Even you stated Ms. King was “apparently also good at misusing those funds and covering her tracks”, but again I didn’t take it that you were accusing her outright.

I think it is just semantics when you boil down to it all.

Good discussion.
March 04, 2012 at 2:46pm
So if the Courier wrote something stating you are guilty of a crime or transgression, or allowed a government agency to write that, or a follow citizen or citizens to write that, and you had no opportunity to defend yourself, that would be OK by you?
March 04, 2012 at 3:05pm
I think if I was in control of money for example and an independent audit was made and it was determined that the money had been mishandled in some way and the Courier reported it then it would be doing its job reporting the findings.

I think if the Courier or any other person called me a thief with no proof or no findings to back that up or if either made that statement with the intent to damage my reputation simply because they were mean spirited or held a grudge against me then that would be different. I would hope that you wouldn't do that to anyone.

I look at the intent of the accusation and the proof behind it to determine what is acceptable and not acceptable. Don't you?

If I stated to you on this website that I think someone working in the Courier is stealing pens and paper and therefore stealing from Ron Fryar and I had no knowledge of the Courier’s policy concerning employee’s rights to remove pens and paper or make copies of personal items on the copy machine or what Ron Fryar asked them to do at home or at work then I believe that would be an egregious statement and one that would be totally out of line.

And more importantly, it is really none of my business because I don’t work at the Courier.

And why wouldn't I or anyone else not have the ability to defend their selves? Anyone who can go to the library has access to the computer and all they have to do is log on and defend away.

Maybe I just look at it differently.
March 04, 2012 at 5:07pm
Really the only thing we look at differently is there has been no proof or findings of fact as determined by a jury or judge. It would be as if the Department of Safety pronounced someone guilty of speeding and took away their driver's license after viewing footage from a traffic camera. The legal process has been eliminated.
March 04, 2012 at 7:11pm
I cannot understand why after the bad audits why our elected officials that have control over the budget of Cannon County was not looking at the issues, and correct before granting more monies. It really looks like we need to elect individuals that are more concerned with where our money is being used and spent instead of just raising taxes for more money to waste. Kevin I have searched to find when Mrs. King was terminated from the position of director. All that I can find is where the director asked for a leave of absence. Monday, November 8, 2010 Gannon said.
It really looks to me that County Executive and commissioners would go over the states audit at the next commissioner meeting and resolve all the issues that were discussed because several issues have been on the report for at least five years, and we are only concerned with this one department.
Paul Alexander
11784 Jim Cummings Hwy
Bradyville, Tennessee 37026-9801

March 04, 2012 at 7:24pm
That is a point of view that could be taken, I agree.

I hope for everyone's sake to include Ms. King that she has her day in court to prove her innocence if she decides to plead as such.
March 05, 2012 at 3:41am
Paul, I too hope that the information gathered by the auditors is discussed by county officials. I hope whenever it is done nothing is said which might interfere with or jeopardize any pending prosecution. I too have reviewed audit findings from past years and have expressed concern, if not outrage, that the steps recommended by the state auditors have not been put into place. I am also concerned that the state auditors did not step in sooner to investigate deeper because its own findings threw up enough red flags to warrant doing so.
March 05, 2012 at 4:38am
Corey, all I am trying to say is that the report it not the be-all, end-all, but rather part of an ongoing investigation. That is why the TBI was involved and the report was copied to the district attorney.

The investigation is ongoing. No formal charges have been levied. No definitive conclusions as to what the evidence shows should be made at the point.
March 05, 2012 at 7:11am
Maybe if the state was only 99.9% sure they should wait for legal action but if they are 100%, then call a thief a thief.

She can have a fair trial. May take place in some other county but it can happen. If tried and found guilty lets hope she serves hard time and becomes destitute after paying restitution.

March 05, 2012 at 7:31am
Bud, would you want the state pronouncing, with certainty, that you are a thief without having an opportunity to challenge the state's evidence?
March 05, 2012 at 10:46am
Corey and Kevin why don't you pick up the phone and talk to each other insteadof always arguing on this foreum. Thank you
March 05, 2012 at 12:56pm
I quess even a thief hates to be called one but, if my actions supplied them the indisputable evidence then i would be living in fear of having to pay the consequences. If I knew i was without fault, i would call bart durham and start searching for some beachfront property.

I quess in todays society the pendulum has swung to the side where maybe I could ban indisputable evidence with legal technicalities and still get the beach house. This is the only reason i believe the state should have remained silent and used all their efforts to pushed for full prosecution.

Probably not a legal leg to stand on much less a moral or ethical one but, I believe if the evidence proves you a thief anyone and especially those you stolen from should be able to call you as much.

March 05, 2012 at 1:07pm
Evidence is produced in a court of law, not in a report. A report can only make allegations.
March 05, 2012 at 1:13pm
beachlover I don't believe Kevin and I argue all the time. I think for the most part we agree 90% of the time and I think he will concur with that.

By the way, we email each other quite often outside of this forum, so we do communicate other ways as well.

I don't get caught up in the idea I cannot disagree with my friends. And despite what many would believe, I do consider him a friend.

Debating an issue, reading what others write and their opinions helps me form my own ideas and helps me to understand other viewpoints. I don't want to let myself be blind to what others think just because I don't agree with it.

Personally, I see that as a good thing.

Bud: Well said!
March 05, 2012 at 1:31pm
Now that the government is finding people guilty of crimes based on evidence it gathers and reports it produces, we might as well just do away with the judicial system. Welcome to the Police State of Tennessee!
March 05, 2012 at 1:39pm
Take this post for example:

LOL Kevin it is all doom and gloom. Grab your guns and hole up cause the Comptrollers Office will be by any minute to get us!
March 05, 2012 at 1:53pm
Corey, you say that in jest, but don't think the possibility, however remote, has not crossed my mind today.
March 05, 2012 at 1:53pm
...or their evidence maybe a signed confession in exchange for leniency, we can only speculate at this time and hope our state officals werent doing the same.
March 05, 2012 at 2:48pm
Bud, the Comptroller's Office does not have the authority to obtain a signed confession from anyone for any reason, nor does it have the authority to barter for or grant leniency. The Comptroller's Office is not a law enforcement nor a prosecutorial division of state government.
March 05, 2012 at 3:16pm
I guess I just believe if you aren't doing anything wrong then you don't have to worry about being caught.
March 05, 2012 at 3:31pm
That's true, but in a criminal sense the Comptroller's Office is not in a position to determine whether anyone has done something wrong, nor does it "catch" anyone for doing so.
March 06, 2012 at 6:48am
I could have used the analogy about people who say they are going to commit voter fraud by “voting early and often” and will encourage others to do the same.

Would that be considered stealing? I know that is a felony crime, but I am not sure if it is classified as stealing or not?

Would that be egregious or factual since it is provable?
March 06, 2012 at 9:26pm
To get back on subject. My question is, if she is found guilty and ordered to repay the money as well as serve time, how is it she will pay back this money? Will the state seize property that they feel is part of what she used the funds to purchase it with? Will they seize all her property in an effort to repay?
March 08, 2012 at 8:52am
proudcitizen, no one is compelled to read the comments. Participation in posting or reading them is completely optional.
March 08, 2012 at 10:34am
Oddly this is one of those times when I really think Kevin and I agree and we aren't even arguing.

I really felt like this was just a simple discussion back and forth between he and I. I had not taken anything he said like he was angry in any way.

I have to ask what is the point of having a blog type system if you can't write and express your opinions on it? That really kind of defeats the purpose doesn't it?

proudcitizen Kevin and I do email each other quite often about a lot of things.
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