Comptroller: Cannon County Needs To Centralize Its Money-Handling Functions

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The last few months should have been eye-opening for Cannon County taxpayers.

First, our office released a special report on the Cannon County REACH After-School Program, which documented that the program’s former executive director made numerous questionable spending decisions – many of which appeared to be for her own personal gain.

Not long after that, our office released its regular annual audit on Cannon County government, which identified a dozen areas of concern with the manner in which public dollars are being managed.

This is no small problem. Cannon County government spends about $26 million worth of your money each year.

Here’s the frustrating part of this: Many of the problems identified in these audits could have been avoided if the county had one central office responsible for budgeting, purchasing and accounting.

As it stands now, responsibilities for those functions are handled separately by the general government department, the highway department and the school department.

So how would a centralized office of accounting, budgeting and purchasing help? First of all, in order to be effective, it would be led by someone with formal training in accounting and finance. That alone could lead to the elimination of many of the accounting mistakes identified in this year’s audit.

A centralized office would also allow the county executive, road supervisor and director of schools to concentrate on running their respective departments without undue worry about whether financial matters were being properly handled.

A centralized office would remove the inefficiency of having separate departments all trying to handle essentially the same functions.

Also, the county would benefit from having standardized bidding and purchasing procedures across all of its departments. This would avoid potentially embarrassing situations in which departments purchase the same items at different prices.

Centralized record-keeping would be another advantage, as would continuity of operations as the elected officials who run those departments come and go.

Yes, there would be some cost associated with setting up a central office and hiring a finance director. However, as recent events in Cannon County have demonstrated, a central office could also protect taxpayer money from being lost to fraud, waste or abuse.

Our office has been recommending that counties centralize their budgeting, purchasing and accounting operations for about four decades. To date, 50 of 95 counties have implemented some form of centralization.

Our goal is for all 95 counties to take that step. Is Cannon County ready?

Justin P. Wilson is Tennessee’s Comptroller of the Treasury. To report fraud, waste or abuse in government in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s fraud hotline at 1-800-232-5454.
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April 03, 2012 at 12:34pm
sounds like a plan to me!
April 03, 2012 at 6:42pm
This needs to happen sooner than later,If this don;t happen before the next election ever elected offical needs to be sent to the house.If it don;t happen most need to be voted out any way.
April 04, 2012 at 6:31am
I would say this is definitely needed with one exception.

This needs to be enacted by a private act by the County Commissioners and we need to stay away from the 1981 Financial Management Act.

By approving a private act then the school systems cannot opt out of the process. If the 1981 act is approved then the school system has the option to continue to act on its own completely independent of any centralized system.

I would suggest anyone who agrees with Cannon County having a centralized accounting system that they contact their County Commissioners and encourage them to vote for a private act and not the 1981 Financial Management Act.
April 04, 2012 at 7:06am
Let's look at what a centralized accounting system would involve in terms of cost, staffing and responsibilities before we leap into it. That information was missing when the resolution was put forth at last month's meeting and is something both the commissioners and citizens should know prior to the process moving forward.
April 04, 2012 at 12:45pm
I agree. We should look at the cost before leaping into anything.

However, it has already cost us at least $62,000 dollars by not having one and that is probably just the tip of the iceberg of what has taken place over the years that has slipped through the system.

Not to mention what could possibly be saved by having actual bids given for work, projects, equipment, etc. instead of our current system of deciding that we cannot get the same services so therefore we don't bid the work. It helps to remove that "good ole boy" form of politics we have become famous for.

And I won't even begin to go into the potential savings of the school system budget.

And the icing on the cake is the transparency in all of the budgets with a centralized system instead of trying to get information from ten different places by twenty different people.

This is like everything else, you get what you pay for and it is time we started living in the 21st century!
April 04, 2012 at 12:55pm
It MIGHT have prevented the theft of $62,000 if one were in place.

Said theft will not have cost the county a penny if Judge Ash orders Angela King to reimburse all the money taken and the investigative costs.
April 04, 2012 at 12:55pm
I agree with Kevin, if this costs more OR equal to the amount it would save, it is a no good bill. What would be the use? Isn't saving money the objective here? If it is decided to centralize then I think Corey has the right idea. It should be applicable for ALL departments/sectors that are controlled by the county.
April 04, 2012 at 12:58pm
Just remember any system or office is only as good as those that comprise it. Hypothetically if you have a corrupt person running the centralized financial office then we will wind up with the same scenario as we have now. This is not a cure all. Oversight will still be needed in whichever direction we go.
April 04, 2012 at 1:03pm
IF the judge orders the reimbursement and WHEN Ms. King gets it paid off then and only then will it not have cost the county a penny.

Until that happens we don't have that money in our general fund so in my opinion it has cost us over $62,000 until it is replaced.

Using your same theory, we MIGHT have prevented the theft of the $62,000 without a centralized financial system had someone been watching and doing their job to begin with and we wouldn't be having this conversation at all.

April 04, 2012 at 2:11pm
IF the the county is insured against employee theft, there is the possibility the insurance company will replace the money. Monies she reimburses would then go to the insurer. If not the county or its insurer could take civil action against her.
April 04, 2012 at 2:15pm

It all comes down to IF's and MIGHT's AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN's.

Great way to govern don't you think?

Do the county employees who deal with money have to be bonded? If not, would that not be a good idea?
April 04, 2012 at 2:52pm
Thought of that about an hour ago while over visiting the Election Office. I assume that unlike elected officials they currently do not have to be bonded, but it does seem appropriate that they be required to do so.
April 05, 2012 at 3:32pm
I may be getting in on this conversation a little late, but I will voice my opinion, without reading what other folks have said above. The county executives or commisioners or whomever was supposed to oversee the REACH program, was neglectful in doing so, do we really want them overseeing everything? Then, when something happens, they say, "the buck stops here with me." The damage is already done at that point. The county needs to take care of it's own budget before taking on other budget responsibilities.
April 05, 2012 at 3:58pm
Angela King was directly responsible for overseeing the REACH program during the time the money was stolen. The current director, Linda Bedwell, who served as King's assistant, was also responsible for overseeing REACH's budget.

Adding another layer of financial oversight in the form of a centralized financial office may or may not have prevented King's crime. However, if there is one, it will not absolve those currently in oversight positions from their current responsibilities.
April 06, 2012 at 6:43am
Kevin here is where you and I will disagree.

Angela King was responsible for the day to day activities of the REACH program and so is the current Director Linda Bedwell.

However, when you are the person who has to sign the checks that come directly out of the county general fund and the citizens of this county elect you to be the steward of their money then you are absolutely, 100%, without a doubt responsible for that money.

It is your job to ensure it is being spent correctly and it is your job to know why it is being spent and it is your job to know county policies concerning that money. To say otherwise is wrong.

There were two major contributors to the fraud that took place concerning the REACH program. The State of Tennessee named both in their report. 1. Angela King due to the theft (that she has now admitted to) and 2. The County Executive’s Office due to total lack of oversight and poor accounting practices monitoring that money.

TWO were responsible and it is time we stopped acting like that doesn't exist. Otherwise the statement that "the buck stops here" is without merit.
April 06, 2012 at 7:52am
Corey the only thing we disagree on is the level of cupability placed on the county executive. More than TWO were responsible. Mike Gannon did not deny his role. However, King's swindling got by both Bedwell and the county executive's financial assistant before they got to Gannon. They got by the state auditors for almost two years.

While you may think catching crooks in the act is easy, a review of the web sites of State Comptroller and the TBI shows that not to be the case. They are filled with stories of people ripping off money from county and city governments from all across the state, both those with central financial management systems and those without them.

Ronald Reagan said "trust but verify" and yes Gannon erred when he trusted without verifying sooner.
April 06, 2012 at 10:53am
Perhaps that is what we disagree on.

Perhaps I have higher expectations than I obviously should have concerning people who are elected to watch out after my money and say they want that responsibility when they run for office.

Perhaps I am naive to believe that if you sign the check then you are saying you know where the money is being spent and what it is being used for or at least you should know.

As I have said before, there is always an excuse and someone else to blame when you handle other people's money.

Do I think it is easy to catch crooks? NO, I don't.

Do I believe that we should expect more than what we got out of everyone who was involved. YES, I do.
April 06, 2012 at 11:22am
She was shifting money between accounts. She was falsifying invoices and bank deposit slips. She used people whose trust she had gained over a period of years.

If there were a pattern of instances where your money had not been watched over to your level of expectations I would understand your concern, but to the best of my knowledge this situation is unique in recent Cannon County history.
April 06, 2012 at 11:39am
None of that excuses ignoring or not knowing county policy concerning paying someone who has been employed with the county less than a month maternity leave.

None of that excuses paying money to her landlord for rent.

None of that excuses leaving signed blank checks for people to fill in the amount of money they chose. (Seriously, who does that?)

I agree it is possible that shifting money created confusion, but it should not have created total lack of common sense or judgement.
April 06, 2012 at 12:56pm
I don't recall anyone making excuses. I recall them accepting responsibility for that which they were cited for by the Comptroller.

However, as to who leaves blank checks for people to fill in the amount, people who are overly trusting try to do it at our office quite frequently. We always make them fill in the amount.
April 06, 2012 at 8:03pm
No matter how much trust is involved, there should always be, without fail, checks and balances put into place for anything involving money. Another question comes to mind. I understand that there are three separate areas the county wants to incorporate into the centralized budget. The county, the Highway department and the school system. I know there were discrepancies found during the last state audit? How many were there for each area? Might be interesting to see who is a better stewart of their money.
April 06, 2012 at 10:45pm
Great discussion! With Comptroller Wilson addressing Cannon County directly in the manner of such a story as this, how long will it be before the State becomes involved and requires Cannon County to adopt a centralized accounting office? Is not such a directness on his part considered quite unusual in itself? Could this be the warning shot of which I mentioned in an earlier posting on this subject?
I, for one, detest State involvement in local county government. I feel the same way about the Federal government becoming involved in such ways. Let's face it, however. If we take the monies offered by both agencies, then we have to expect their involvement. Strings are always attached. Especially when it comes to money. With grant money, the receiver is the servant to the giver. This should be the same as with all tax money but then that is another discussion.
Corey speaks of transparency. I prefer to think of it as accountability. Maybe one cannot be gained without the other. If so, then both are necessary in today's world and as the general distrust of government grows, both should be demanded by the voters and citizens of our county.
In doing so (creating a centralized budget office), then all departments of local government will be held to the same standard. All department heads must be prepared to provide accurate and sufficient records (and be asked tough and direct questions) to support all spending within their departments. From the Co. Executive, Director of Schools, Sheriff, Highway Dept., Ambulance, Fire Depts, Emergency Management, all county elected offices, etc. Establishing such a level of accountability among each and every person involved with all the transactions involved will become a monumental task for a centralized budget office. No one person will be able to accomplish this without sufficient trained and qualified staff. Even then, one intent upon stealing money may still find ways of doing so. Having such a department will not prevent theft and dishonesty. It may reduce the risks.
April 08, 2012 at 8:54am
Good points Bonnie and ladyreader.

Just to clarify, I don't think the State can require the county to adopt a centralized accounting system. If it could, I think all 95 counties would already be using one.

I do speak of transparency, but along with you Bonnie I think that creates accountability.

In response to your last commment Kevin, other people leaving blank checks is up to them. If they feel comfortable with that then more power to them.

When it comes to my money (tax dollars) then it becomes my rules and I expect a whole lot more responsibility to be given than to just leave signed blank checks in the hopes someone isn't dishonest. Trust is fine to a degree, but as we saw it leaves you wide open to someone abusing that trust.

I strongly suggest anyone who wants to know more about the county budget to attend next Staurday April 14th budget meeting. To my understanding the centralized budget system will be discussed along with other interesting items.

One last note. When you read the article above everyone should realize the author is one of three constitutional officers in the State of Tennessee who took time out of his day to write his concerns around Cannon County. To me that says a lot about how serious this has become.
April 09, 2012 at 6:07am
Mr. Wilson makes good points. Before committing another $75,000 to $100,000 a year of the taxpayer's money to another layer of government, however, a greater explanation of the tangible benefits they will receive in return should be provided to them. They need to know if transparency, accountability, standardized bidding and purchasing, etc. can be accomplished without taking what amounts to an expensive step for a county of this size?
April 09, 2012 at 7:00am
Again, not having it has proved that $62,000 can be stolen real quick due to negligence so I would say that in itself is a major reason to go in that direction.

I would also say raising property taxes without knowing the final budget numbers like we have always done is another. Last year was a prime example. That is why it started out at 23 cents and got down to 12 cents and it probably didn't need to be there when you take a hard look at it.

And the idea of transparency, accountability and standardized bidding and purchasing is a pipe dream without a centralized accounting system.

It has never happened and will never happen unless is it is required to happen.

We have been told too many times we can't get the same services if things are bid out and the school system will never voluntarily participate.

It is time to move forward and this is one of the steps we need to make.
April 09, 2012 at 7:14am
The $62,000 could have been stolen even if one were in place. The final numbers are never "in" when the budgeting process begins because the previous fiscal year is not completely closed out until about a month after it ends. The budgeting process begins 2-3 months before it ends. There are other ways to address the problems and move forward without spending $75,000 to $100,000 a year that could be spent on other things, such as an animal shelter or a spec building. Presenting that equates to a 4-5 cents increase in the property tax rate.
April 09, 2012 at 1:30pm
Yes the $62,000 could have been stolen no matter what was in place. But a lot less likely if a centralized system was in place than our current system.

And yes there are other things that $75,000 to $100,000 could be spent on such as a spec building (which I have been promoting the idea of for years), but reality is it won't be and you know it and so do I. Not only that, the idea of a centralized accounting system is on the table to discuss. A spec building or animal shelter isn’t.

And had the county known what it was doing about an animal shelter then they would not have let the land they gave away for that purpose at the Industrial Park be sold for the back taxes owed on it. Nor would they have released the land without a provision stipulating it would revert back to them if the taxes were not paid.
By the way, if they want to get the land back have someone call me and I will tell them how to get it back.

I think you are ahead of yourself when you suggest it would cost us a 4 to 5 cent property tax increase considering the savings of implementing a centralized accounting system have not been discussed or determined. It is very possible that the savings could offset the cost and it would be nothing but a wash.

To me this is a logical step in helping to prevent fraud, promote competitive bidding, reduce costs by centralizing your purchasing and it creates more transparency because numbers are more readily available than having to wait a month after the fiscal year to determine what money you actually have.

Again, I go back to the idea no one runs their own finances in a manner where they can't determine how much money they have in the bank at any given time and I am not sure why anyone would want to run taxpayer money that way either.
April 09, 2012 at 1:54pm
Not sure how you have determined that the county does not know how much money it has in the bank at any given time. But depending on when money is added, and when it is taken out, the amount can and I imagine does change on a (business) daily basis.

It takes a month or so to close out the books on a fiscal year because both income and bills for/from the prior fiscal year don't always come on by June 30.

It does not required another county government office to seek competitive bids and centralize purchasing, it just takes better communicating between existing brances of government.

One can look at the cost of staffing and operating a 1-3 person exiting county office to get a pretty good idea as to what the cost would be. Conversely, one would have a hard time looking at the FY 2011-2012 budget and finding $75,000 to $100,000 in excessive spending.
April 09, 2012 at 2:36pm
Yes communication between the branches would help seek out competitive bidding, but communication is almost non-existent now and without something to force it to happen it will never be any different.

I think you and I are not far apart in our thinking but you seem to have more faith in the idea that everyone will start working together and all the dominoes will suddenly fall into place than I do.

There is too much testosterone and "we've never done it that way" thinking to do much of anything that isn't absolutely required. I faced that reality a long time ago and I have little faith it will ever change.

I could give you example after example over the years of what needed to be done but wasn’t done because of the aforementioned reasons. I could give you examples of things that have happened over the last two months that were needed and was told to the people who could make it happen but ignored because of attitudes, personal vendettas and outright negligence. But, what good would any of that do? In my opinion, it would do nothing.

Personally, I just think the centralized accounting system would force us to make changes that needed to be made years ago and I am not suggesting there is $75,000 to $100,000 in excessive spending in the FY 2012 budget. I am suggesting that it is possible for money to be saved by going to a centralized system that could offset the cost of implementing it. I believe that has been proven in our counties who have it and could be in ours as well.
April 09, 2012 at 2:42pm
Just going to repost the first comment I made to this story, because it appears that due diligence may be swept aside for political expendiency:

"Let's look at what a centralized accounting system would involve in terms of cost, staffing and responsibilities before we leap into it. That information was missing when the resolution was put forth at last month's meeting and is something both the commissioners and citizens should know prior to the process moving forward."
April 09, 2012 at 3:04pm
Fair enough and I agree that it should be looked at. However, I think due diligence will take care of itself.

If memory serves me correct there were people in the last commissioners meeting who stated it would take almost a year before a private act implementing a centralized accounting system could be enacted. I am also sure those same people will fight it tooth and nail to prevent it from happening at all because it is something they sincerely do not want because it takes control of monies away from them.

Personally, I don't see this as something the commissioners are trying to expedite for political gain. Especially considering it is a non-election year for the major players in the game. If I thought it was then I would be screaming the loudest.
April 09, 2012 at 3:39pm
Well that's an interesting aspect to the situation right there -- taking "control of monies away" from those who are elected to control it, who are answerable to the people, and giving control to someone who is not. Seems to me the elected officials would still be responsible for the money.
April 09, 2012 at 5:12pm
In fact, what I am suggesting puts it back in the hands of the people who are elected to control money.

As it stands today the people who are elected have no control over the money that is spent, how it is spent or how things are bid, etc.

All the people who are elected have the power to do it approve or not approve.

And that is why I said "I am also sure those same people will fight it tooth and nail to prevent it from happening at all because it is something they sincerely do not want because it takes control of monies away from them".

April 09, 2012 at 5:24pm
Every country department has an elected or appointed official overseeing it. The appointments to those positions which are not elected are made by elected officials. Is what you are proposing an office to micromanage the finances of every county department with a director hired by the county commission?
April 09, 2012 at 8:26pm
There are those who are not elected who control money, spend money and decide every aspect of their budget with very little input from anyone except for the one time a year when they propose a budget and it is either approved or not.

They spoke at the last commissioners meeting and by their very own words it was evident they were against the idea of a centralized accounting system. I felt very strongly that it was because it takes control out of thier hands and puts it into the hands of the centralized accounting system. And in my opinion it should.

I don't think a centralized system will micro manage all the departments nor do I think it should, but it would help solve a lot of the issues we face today because we have multiple departments doing many of the same things differently at a cost to the taxpayer.
April 09, 2012 at 10:41pm
A centralized accounting office should not remove control from the offices whose monies are being tracked. Such an accounting office should monitor and hold accountable each department to maintain its spending within the bounds the budget allows. Efficiencies are gained only through loss prevention or when flags go up that something is offtrack or on a hazardous path. The county commission would still approve the budget for all county departments and would still set the tax rate. Other efficiencies may be gained through centralized purchasing but unless each department works in harmony with the purchasing policies, then the effort can never achieve its potential success.
All this sounds very much like due diligence must be done before the commission has a thorough understanding of what such a system could mean for Cannon County. This subject has been on the table for discussion for some time now. There should be answers to many of these questions already. The public is in need of such an education as much as the county commissioners are. Who is responsible for educating the voters and citizens of the county? Or must they set about to do this themselves?
April 10, 2012 at 6:29am
Bonnie I find it hard to rely on others to educate me on questions like the centralized system and most any other issue that the county faces because most people don't take the time to educate themselves. That is evident to me by the way most issues are handled. I also go back to the idea that there is too much "we've never done it that way" mentality so most people don't even try at all to know what could be better.

There are several resources the county and the citizens have concerning questions about a centralized accounting system.

1. The State Comptroller’s Office
2. The 1981 Financial Management Act
3. T.C.A. codes on powers of the county commission (too many to list)
4. CTAS (County Technical Assistance Service)

Those are my top four and will give you just about anything you need to know or can think of to ask.

Again, I think due diligence will prevail because Cannon County has never got in a hurry to change anything and I doubt very seriously this will be any different.
April 10, 2012 at 6:58am
Where do you find answers to these questions: Is it affordable? Is it necessary? Will it provide any tangible benefits? Are there alternative solutions?

There are other questions to, such as whether one of the motives of the State Comptroller's Office in pushing it on counties is that it would make it easier for their staff to conduct annual audits. That makes it more along the lines of an unfunded mandate.

There is also concern with the involvement of CTAS, whose local representative lives here, thus providing him with involvement in county affairs that no other non-elected citizen enjoys. That creates a potential for a conflict of interest, which would not be possible if "CTAS" were not stamped on his business card.
April 10, 2012 at 11:23am
Is it affordable? That will be determined by looking at the cost to implement the system and looking at the cost of our current system and the overall savings it could represent.

Is it necessary? I think that is self-explanatory in my opinion. We have multiple departments doing things multiple different ways. We have less control over the money going out and coming in. We have a different bidding process for work by just about every department. The State of Tennessee has recommended it on how many audits they have performed in the last few years? The State Comptroller recommends it (see article above) and there are many more reasons that I see but take too much time to write.

Will it provide tangible benefits? If the cost savings is proven then that is the most tangible benefit. I think it would also promote competitive bidding which would be tangible. I think it would provide up to date access to the monies we have and allow for a quicker turn around on producing a budget each year. And I personally think it will reduce the accounting mistakes that have been made (also the opinion of the State Comptroller-see article above).

Are there alternative solutions? Yes there are. However, Cannon County has proven it will not change unless forced to. This is just another example of it.

As far as the local CTAS representative living in Cannon County, I see no conflict of interest and I doubt you or anyone else that makes that claim could prove it. I would also doubt that the superiors at CTAS would agree with that either.

For the record, I called CTAS and asked them how many of the representatives lived inside the county they were zoned for and the answer was ALL of them. They explained that it was specifically set that way for many different reasons of which one was because they would have firsthand knowledge of the area they represent.

I see no more potential for a "conflict of interest" by a CTAS Representative than I would a member of the County Commissioner living in the district they represent.

To me that just makes logical sense. It would also seem the State of Tennessee believes that it is logical as well despite the thoughts of those who don't in Cannon County and would try to make it more than it actually is.

Also, the CTAS Representative is not the only non-elected official in Cannon County who enjoys the unprecedented involvement of local affairs. I would suggest the Director of Schools also enjoys that privilege as well. Has anyone suggested that there is a conflict due to that? I doubt it.
April 10, 2012 at 11:48am
The Director of Schools is appointed by elected officials.

Any time a person has influence over how, where and on what money is spent in the county in which they reside, any time there is an opportunity to provide assistance to political allies in the county in which they reside, any time there is an opportunity to provide advice which might influence a political decision in the county in which they reside, there is an opportunity for a conflict on interest.

With respect to Cannon County and its CTAS representative, the potential for a conflict of interest is elevated a notch by the simple fact his spouse was, the last time I checked, vice chairman for one of the local political parties. However that may have changed since I don't keep track of the situartion closely.
April 10, 2012 at 12:58pm
The CTAS Representative is a State of Tennessee worker whose ultimate bosses are the elected officials that you or anyone has the ability to vote for or against.

If you don’t like the CTAS Representative, vote for someone who you think will change them. Perhaps you could also advise them to change the way the entire state is zoned and have the CTAS Representative use taxpayer money to fly across the state to different counties to avoid knowing too much in Cannon County.

The Director of Schools is NOT an elected office. The potential for "good ole boy" politics and a potential of conflict is much higher in that situation than anything related to CTAS. And the last time I checked the Director of Schools has influence over how, where and on what money is spent in the county in which they reside.

Again, your opinion is just that, an opinion. You or no one else can cite one instance of a conflict of interest in any capacity by the CTAS Representative or any family member of that person. I am certain that if they could then it would have already been done.

Using your theory everyone who works in the county government has an opportunity for a conflict of interest because they all live here.

I am not sure what you or anyone else expects. Do you want the member of CTAS to live in Canada and drive to Cannon County?

To avoid a “potential” conflict of interest should we require that the County Executive live in McMinnville?

Should we elect members of the county commission out of zone 5 to represent zone 1 so that we could avoid a “potential” conflict of interest on laws that affect the area in which they live?

Let's use this example: If I were say an elected official of Cannon County and you and I were bosom buddies and I used my friendship with you to promote my political agenda, sway public opinion or suggest that you use the Cannon Courier to take the political heat off of me and place it on someone else would that be a conflict of interest?

How about we just focus on the county officials using the CTAS Representative in conjunction with the mission statement that is on their website instead of worrying about “potential” conflicts of interest.

“The purpose of the County Technical Assistance Service is to promote better county government through direct assistance to county officials and their associations”.
April 10, 2012 at 1:37pm
Again, the Director of Schools is appointed by elected (county) officials. The CTAS representative is not.

If a CTAS representative does not live in one of the county's they are assigned to, there is no reason to question whether there is a conflict of interest or even the appearance of one.

"Using your theory everyone who works in the county government has an opportunity for a conflict of interest because they all live here."

The county's CTAS representative is not an employee of the county, and is not answerable to the people of the county. He's not even answerable to the people he provides "assistance" to.

“The purpose of the County Technical Assistance Service is to promote better county government through direct assistance to county officials and their associations”.

What amounts to "better county government" to some people can often depend on their political views, their personal feelings about people and their friendships and associations with individuals involved in government and those who live in the community, none of which has anything to do with making county government better.
April 10, 2012 at 2:07pm
Again, the Director of Schools situation has a far greater "potential" for a conflict of interest than the CTAS Representative. That has been very evident in the past.

Again, everyone who lives in Cannon County and is an elected official has the potential to have a conflict of interest.

The CTAS Representative has to live somewhere and the State of Tennessee has logically determined they will represent the county in which they reside. That is a common sense approach to helping the county in which they live.

Again, whether you are or are not an elected official in the county you live in does not take away the "potential" of a conflict of interest.
What I see more clearly is that the potential of a conflict of interest is less from someone who is not elected simply because they are not playing the political game of trying to be re-elected. They are not tied to the idea they must say the “politically correct” thing or make a deal to garner votes.

Again, there is not one instance of a conflict of interest by the current CTAS Representative. It is merely subjective to your opinion

I have made it clear that I have no alternative motives about why I am so vocal about the government in Cannon County many times and I am associated with a political party and am proud of it. My political beliefs do not dictate everything I do or say nor do they cloud the reality of how our local government conducts business.

My goal is to help make this county a better place to live for me and my family and friends. Nothing more and absolutely nothing less. I would hope that is the goal of every citizen who lives here.

And yet again, we are talking about a subject that has little to no merit to the article or issue at hand.
April 10, 2012 at 2:26pm
Again, the Director of Schools is answerable to elected officials. The CTAS representative it not.

I think the subject has a lot of merit, since agents of the state (Comptroller's Office and CTAS) are both trying to influence how Cannon County operates. Not sure whether they are working in concert, but it would not surprise me if they were.

While I can not cite a specific conflict of interest, I can cite the appearance of one: The CTAS representative prepared the budget for the sheriff's office for the current fiscal year. Therefore, it is impossible for me to be absolutely certain that the budget that was done represents the best interests of the sheriff, or the best interests of the taxpayers, which do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.
April 10, 2012 at 3:01pm
Again, the Director of Schools has a far greater "potential" of a conflict of interest than the CTAS Representative. That has been very evident in the past.

I would suggest you do a few things to alleviate your concerns or anyone else who might be bending your ear about CTAS and the Comptroller.

1. Call the CTAS office at 615.532.3555 and let them know that you have discovered a possible conflict of interest and you would like for them to review it and get their opinion. Also let them know you would like for them to change the policy concerning the representative living inside the county they represent. Ask for a written report on their findings and please publish it in the Cannon Courier.

2. Contact the State of Tennessee Comptroller's Office at:

Comptroller of the Treasury
First Floor, State Capitol
Nashville, TN 37243-9034

Explain to them that you believe that the State Comptroller's Office is working in conjunction with CTAS to try and influence Cannon County politics in a way that is detrimental to the betterment of our citizens. Ask Comptroller Wilson to release a statement explaining his office’s involvement with CTAS and other counties to ensure there is no other issues with CTAS and the Comptroller’s Office except in Cannon County, Tennessee. I would suggest you do that with more than just appearances.

3. Contact Chairman Bob Stoetzel and ask for time in a future County Commissioners meeting to address your concerns concerning the Sheriff's budget.

4. Contact Darrell Young at 563-4322 and have him explain his budget to help alleviate your concerns that his budget does not represent the best interests of the taxpayers and his office.

Lastly, I could cite you the appearance of not only conflicts of interest, but also downright negligence on the part of one particular elected official that is factual and provable but I really see no need to do so at this point in time.
April 10, 2012 at 3:16pm
Corey, the very fact that you are pointing me in directions of agencies and people who either are or should be aware of the conflict of interest is enough to convince me that one exists. However, you left out your own conflict of interest in discussing the matter.
April 10, 2012 at 3:24pm
I didn't realize I could convince you of anything Kevin.

I was merely suggesting that you take your concerns to the people you said that you felt had the supposed "conflict of interest" and let them explain your findings. I am of the opinion that if you are not willing to confront those people then as I said before the argument you make is without merit.

Oh, and please do tell for everyone to see my own conflict of interest in all of this because you know deep down that I am terrified it will get out and it will bother me tremendously when it does.

Or you could just have whoever call me at 615-563-2061 and I will gladly explain the travesty that I am sure we are all about to read.
April 10, 2012 at 3:34pm
Corey, because I don't expect people who are either directly or tacitly participating in something to do anything about it.

And I am also sure that you are quite happy with the situation, in that the Cannon County Republican Party, which you chair, has found someone in state government, who is also a citizen of the county, who has the CTAS stamp of approval, who is married to the vice chairman, who will gladly do its bidding when it comes to local political and government matters. It's the perfect set up.
April 10, 2012 at 3:44pm
Yep you nailed it. It is all a setup and a conspiracy. I confess it all.

I throw myself at the mercy of the court of opinion for them to decide if I am guilty of the travesty of being associated with people who are trying to change the way Cannon County runs the government and bring them into the 21st century.

You never answered my question:

If I were say an elected official of Cannon County and you and I were bosom buddies and I used my friendship with you to promote my political agenda, sway public opinion or suggest that you use the Cannon Courier to take the political heat off of me and place it on someone else would that be a conflict of interest?

Would that be the perfect set up?
April 10, 2012 at 3:56pm
Corey, your question is pertinent. I am not involved in state or local government or politics. I do not work for a state agency that is involved in local government. No elected officials asks for or is offered advice from me on government or political matters. The same can not be said for the county's CTAS representative.

But thanks for the admission: "It is all a setup and a conspiracy." Without that I might have had to wonder about whether it was a little longer.
April 10, 2012 at 4:04pm
I agree. The question is pertinent and relevant I might also add.

If you are not willing to approach the people involved with your potential conflict of interest findings because you say that "you don't expect people who are either directly or tacitly participating in something to do anything about it" that must include all ten County Commissioners and the County Executive?

Are you suggesting that all ten Cannon County Commissioners and our County Executive will not do the job they were elected to do and investigate a finding or issue by one of its citizens?

If the answer to that question is NO then you do have an avenue to express your concerns or findings you just choose to make the accusation and not back it up.
April 10, 2012 at 4:05pm
Can't help but wonder how long it will be before your "conspiracy" plays itself out in the form of a suggestion that the county's CTAS representative be hired run the central financial office once it is formed?
April 10, 2012 at 4:09pm
By the way, that is the CTAS Representative's job to offer advice on government and political matters.

That is what the State of Tennessee taxpayers pay them to do. That is why they attend training classes and are educated for.

If they were not needed and the advice wasn't wanted then why are the elected officials of Cannon County asking them questions to include the county commissioners and county executive?

That really doesn't make sense and it seems like the only person with the problem is you.
April 10, 2012 at 4:10pm
The potential for a conflict of interest should be evident to all involved. However, they are all entitled to their own observations, opinions and judgments. Mine is that a CTAS representative should not be assigned to the county in which they live, and I have expressed my reasons.
April 10, 2012 at 4:15pm
"... the only person with the problem is you."

Perhaps that's because so far the situation has flown under the radar and not been brought to light, but perhaps not.

However, I have expressed by concerns directly to the person who is in the best situation to dispel them: Our CTAS representative.
April 10, 2012 at 4:15pm
You have the right to your opinion and I have the facts of mine. HA! We will agree to disagree.

The potential for a conflict of interest should be evident to all involved in county politics.

Negligence should be evident as well.
April 10, 2012 at 10:00pm
PLEASE!!!! Can we not just agree to disagree and move on to more productive matters? I again state that there is a dire need for the voters and citizens of Cannon County to be educated on various subjects that affect them. A centralized budget office is one such subject. Across time, there are many, many subjects. Many of our voters and citizens don't have access to computers or the Internet. They know only what they hear on the local radio, read in the Cannon Courier, or hear on the street. Most don't know what CTAS even is. I strongly suggest that it IS the responsibility of our county government and local news media to report on such matters and inform the general public to the best of their ability.
This does not negate the responsibility that each single voter and citizen has to educate themselves. Let's face it, however. How many people have the time or means to do such research during their day? What is wrong with the County government placing such data in the news media to inform and educate their citizens? What is wrong with the radio or newspaper going the extra mile to educate their readers? Not just that a tornado is about to hit them but what to do in the event of one! Not only to inform them of legislation pending but what it means to the average person. It seems all we see is arguing on various points but no real attempt to present us with facts that we can use to better prepare for what may lie ahead.
Debates are interesting. Even entertaining. They are not, however, productive for the education of the readers. A great percentage of our population is made up of older citizens. These are people who don't enjoy what most of us do that have computers or access to the Internet. By and large, these are the tax payers of the county that actually fund most of what transpires here. These are the land owners, business owners, home owners whose hard earned money goes each year to see that the rest of us have the services we have grown to expect and think we are entitled to. Who really is looking after their best interest? Is it a county commission elected to represent them? If so, then they accept an overwhelming responsibility to vote on their behalf knowing the people they represent don't know the facts or are for the most part uneducated with regard to the issues at hand. I would hope before this matter reaches a vote on the commission that they would make some attempt to share with the citizens they represent what their findings are with regard to the centralized budget office issue.
I think it too the responsibility of the Cannon Courier not only to inform the public but also to present them with a balanced view of the facts pertaining to this matter. The same would be true of the local radio station. This news story is much larger than the announcement itself. It goes far beyond just being the presentation of an idea. It begs of clarification and definition. The public deserves and is entitled to being informed.
April 11, 2012 at 2:33am
Wow you two kept me up late reading all of this exciting stuff. Corey, it is not the job of the CTAS member to advise any of us on anything political; only on those of running the government.
Kevin I swear all those insinuations on the CTAS member sounds so much like slander to me. The state is getting closer to requiring a financial center that has been mentioned. It is the desire of those on the commission that want to see solid government that also desire to have the financial center. I am a democrat but that never influences my decision on any matter. But how do I act about conflicts of interest when I occassionly work for the Courier and my wife has worked there for 25 years or more.
Bob Stoetzel
Chairman Cannon County Commission.
April 11, 2012 at 4:19am
Bob, people avoid conflicts of interest by removing themselves from situations that present them.
April 11, 2012 at 6:36am
1st I didn't intend for it to sound like CTAS advised on anything political. Although, most of the items wind up being political anyway despite what was intended to begin with.

2nd I don't view this as an argument between Kevin and I, we just banter back and forth and tend to obsess over the minor details at times.

3rd Bonnie I can agree to disagree. And I also think the public should be informed. No offense to anyone or the Courier or any commissioner, but I tend to believe that people who truly want to be informed should find out the information on their own. Simply because media and individuals can be biased whether they intend to or not.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!
April 11, 2012 at 6:41am
"Simply because media and individuals can be biased whether they intend to or not."

Agree 100 percent. That has been my point throughout this discussion.

April 11, 2012 at 11:53am
See I really didn't take it that way.

I took what you said as an accusation and one that was your opinion and not one that could be proven or you were willing to put in front of people who could refute it or confirm it.

Everyone is biased, everyone is opinionated and everyone has their own beliefs, but that doesn't make them right or true.

What is true is what is provable and fact.

April 12, 2012 at 4:29pm
I think the Corey, Kevin and Bonnie just need to get together somewhere, have lunch and continue talking about this subject. I believe you three have just about worn it out, here.
April 13, 2012 at 4:18am
Excellent idea! Lunch with two wonderful and intelligent people sounds good to me.
April 13, 2012 at 6:10am
I am good with lunch. Pick the place and the time and I will be there.

DJ's makes a mean Cavalini!

Ladyreader you could come to. I would even buy yours for suggesting it!
April 13, 2012 at 4:28pm
I just might take you up on that.
April 13, 2012 at 11:08pm
Call me at 563-2061 anytime and we can set it up!
April 14, 2012 at 12:01am
Flattered by your comments. Lunch sounds great. Maybe someday. Good conversation about a topic we all love. Cannon County.
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