Gannon: The Buck Stops At My Desk

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Cannon County Executive Mike Gannon issued the following statement this morning concerning the findings released in a Special Report issued by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office on the Cannon County REACH After-School Program:

”I accept full and complete responsibility for the shortcomings the auditors found with my office's oversight of REACH," Gannon said. "To borrow the line from President Truman, the buck stops at my desk."

Gannon noted that several of the recommendations outlined by the auditors to correct the problems at REACH have already been put into place.

"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."

The money alleged to have been misappropriated in the report came from state and federal grants and fundraising from local events such as the annual Good Ole Days.

“As soon as the auditors told us there appeared to be a problem, I removed her (former REACH executive director Angela King) from the position,” Gannon said.

Gannon added that his office will assist in any way it can to help recover any of the grant money lost due to the alleged inappropriate actions of the former REACH director.

"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."

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Members Opinions:
February 29, 2012 at 5:46pm
Every program should have checks and balances in place, no exceptions. And to merely remove this person from this position was not enough.
February 29, 2012 at 6:34pm
There is no way this could have happened if Mike was doing his job. The question is" Did he know about it, or why he didn't before now?". Everyone envolved in this should be held accountable. Its stealing from children nomatter how you look at it.
February 29, 2012 at 7:24pm
For the same reason it took the state's auditors nearly four years to figure out what was going on. Angela King was good at raising grant money and other funds, and apparently also good at misusing those funds and covering her tracks.

I've been here for nearly three years. I spoke with someone today, who used to work in the REACH program while King was there, and who had expressed concerns to me about King's handling and usage of money from day one. On a few occassions I went and talked with King about concerns which were being expressed about REACH's money situation. Each time she was able to present figures which added up.

Having no verifiable reason not too, I trusted that what she was saying was the truth. I had no reason not to do so. Several county commissioners expressed concerns about the REACH budget for a period of time at meetings before she was let go, but were unable to be specific. Several county commissioners also told me that those concerns were being expressed by people who were jealous of King, and that they supporter her because she had brought in millions of dollars and jobs into the county over the years because of her ability to get grants. If a large grant had not fallen through a few years ago, she very well may have been able to continue to allegedly deceive people.

It is because of those "whistleblowers" that today's outcome was reached. However, as I told them at the time, it is easy to make an accusation, and another to prove it. It took highly-trained and experienced state auditors to make it happen. It will take equally talented prosecutors to convict her of any crime she is eventually charged with.

The two lessons from this are don't trust anyone, and that it is time for Cannon County to do what the state Comptroller's office has been recommending for years: Form an Audit Committee of the Cannon County Commission, which has already been done, and also adobt a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing.

As the auditors state in the report, "The absence of a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing has been a management decision by the County Commission resulting in decentralization and some duplication of effort. We recommend the adoption of the County Financial Management System of 1981 or a private act, which would provide for a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing covering all county departments."

Why has that not been done? Ironically, because it would cost more each year to do so than what King allegedly misused.
March 01, 2012 at 4:21am

It is not my job, or the objective of this newspaper, to prosecute, persecute, cover up for or to "try" anyone. My comment provides information that I have heard and obtained over the last few years. There is no "conjecture" involved.

You have been a county commissioner during the entire time of this audit, including before my arrival. The county commission is accountable for every expenditure made in every department and agency in this county.

Please concern yourself with doing your job as a county commissioner, and I'll worry about doing mine as an editor/reporter. If I am wrong it won't cost this county a penny. According to the audit report, the commission being wrong has already cost the county over $60,000.
March 01, 2012 at 6:39am
One more point Bob: Unlike yourself, I have no aspirations of being county executive. However, I must take into account the fact that you do as being one of the reasons why, at this point, you would offer conjecture that, "This is not over by a long shot, it is just beginning." By doing so, you are pre-determining the outcome of something which has not yet occurred.

Every state audit since 2005 has recommended that Cannon County officials adopt "the County Financial Management System of 1981 or a private act, which would provide for a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing covering all county departments."

You, along with the other people who have served on the county commission during that period, control the legislative and expenditure process. The county still does not have a central system accounting, budgeting and purchasing covering all departments. The state's recommendations have been ignored. That has contributed to the lack of oversight.
March 01, 2012 at 6:49am
Bob Stoetzel as a County commissioner , you shouldn't be stating openly that you have an "inside" to this case and hinting broadly "that the opposite [is] found to be true." For some reason, people think of elected oficials as authorities. You are only further muddying the waters. Take you own advice and let the courts try this case.
March 01, 2012 at 6:51am
Wow is all I can say to a lot of things being said here and by the Comptrollers Report.

I think to say the County Commissioners being “wrong has already cost the county $60,000” does not give credit where credit is due.

I have read the special report on REACH the Comptroller released and every single time fault or findings were discussed it centered around two areas. #1 The Director of Reach and #2 the office of County Executive.

The allegations against the former Director were blunt, revealing and scathing to say the least. It was the same against the County Executive as well.

It seems to me the "buck" should have stopped long before it ever reached the point of $60,000 and to me it proves negligence when it didn't.

The idea that you can simply just say oops I didn't catch it after the audit report clearly states there was years of repeated audit findings ignored, best practices not followed, personnel practices ignored and basically no accountability concerning itemized receipts and multiple payments for the same expense this goes way beyond the fault of the County Commissioners in my opinion.

I am not sure how the County Commissioners cost the county $1100 in maternity leave for someone who had only been employed four weeks.

I am not sure how the County Commissioners cost the county $575 out of the General Fund paid directly to the former Director's landlord.

I am also not sure how the repeated reimbursements to the former Director for items bought at Wal-Mart despite the office of REACH having a Wal-Mart credit card was the fault of the County Commissioners.

It seems to me that not only is Cannon County owed approximately $60,000 it should also be owed an apology for either being totally blind or totally inept at using common sense when approving money.

No matter how good the former Director was at allegedly hiding money, falsifying documents or deceiving anyone I think bells and whistles should have been going off long before she was removed. And I question why it wasn’t. I would be anxious to see what might be revealed and told by the former Director if this is pursued legally by the county.

I agree that a “central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing covering all county departments" is something we have needed for a long time and is something the County Commission should be diligently working toward.

However, just because one was not in place does not excuse or make right the simple, basic best practices that should have been followed by the Office of County Executive.

I always wonder why there are so many excuses made when handling other people’s money when there are no way those excuses would be tolerated or accepted if it was their own money.
March 01, 2012 at 7:09am
Corey, my only disagreement with what you state is simply what I previously stated: The County Commission controls the purse strings of the county, and us ultimately responsible for every financial transaction.
March 01, 2012 at 9:12am
Bob, Eventhough I understand the point you are making, I have to believe that if these kind of discrepancies were pounded more by the public and media they would cost us less money and heartache in the long run. Also if "All the information is not out to everyone" why not? And if not for the newspaper asking, when are we suppose to learn that we have been robbed, when the auditors leave? This is a disgrace to all involved.

Many people have been screaming something was wrong at reach for years. I really dont believe many people will be shock over this news, hurt and disappointed but not shocked. I guess one question I have for all involved is when did YOU first suspect wrong doings and when and what actions did YOU take?

I personnally like Mike Gannon and believe overall he has done a good job for Cannon county. I want to believe he is only guilty of insufficient oversight. It is a shame that the repulsive actions of one unscrupulous person will blemish his reputation and the counties. It is not his place nor does he have the authority to create a central financial office but he is chair to commissioners and has the authority and duty of the oversite of county finances. If these allegations are true he would shoulder most of the blame but he should be commended for immediately stepping forward and accepting responsibility for the actions of his office and doing all he can to right and amend this ugly situation.
March 01, 2012 at 9:29am
Good comment Bud. I will point out that there is not now, nor to the best of my knowledge has there ever been, an auditor working in the county executive's office. There is a bookkeeper. Off the top of my head I can count at least 10 county departments or agencies. All of them have people who handle or oversee money. Many of them have bookkeepers. All of them routinely (almost daily) handle that money in an honest and legal manner. I do not think the bookkeeper for one office (the county executive) has either the time or the resources to audit the books of every county department. Bookkeepers don't and shouldn't do audits, which is why you should have arms-length auditors.
March 01, 2012 at 9:56am
Does anyone know how many times since 2005 that the Chairman of the County Commissioners who controls the agenda brought forth the idea of a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing covering all county departments as recommended by State of Tennessee auditors and placed it on an agenda for the full Commission to study?

Does it not seem feasible to think that in the last seven years of those repeated audit findings that we would have seen that?

Does it not also seem feasible to think that something that important could and should have had a "special meeting” called during all those years they met every three months?

I know we were told repeatedly that if something was important enough then all that needed to be done was to call a special meeting to discuss it. Wasn't this important enough?

Was one ever called? And if not, why wasn't it and who was responsible for not doing it?
March 01, 2012 at 10:03am
Corey, the responsibility for it not having been done rests with the chairman of the county commission and all those who are serving or have served as county commissioners since then. Anyone serving as a commissioner can request that a topic be put on an agenda. Anyone serving as a county commissioner can bring up an item for discussion and consider during "Other Business" at any regular meeting.
March 01, 2012 at 10:14am
Thank you Kevin and I agree completely on the duties of the bookkeepers but thought it was the responsibility of the county exec to oversee dept budgets and bring any discrepancies to the attention of commissioners and or state auditors. If I am incorrect, then do we have any internal audit system or are we just rely soley on an annual state audit?
March 01, 2012 at 10:23am
Bud, I am not aware of any internal audit system. That was the point of the state determining that county's needed an Audit Committee of the County Commission. I may be confused, but I thought it was the responsibility of the Budget Committee to oversee departmental budgets.
March 01, 2012 at 11:14am
It appears that corrective action was taken almost immediately upon this situation being discovered and long before the State audit report made such an exposure.
March 01, 2012 at 12:31pm
If I am not mistaken there was an independent audit committee request to be formed made in January of 2011 at the County Commissioners meeting and it took quite some time before it was ever actually formed.

Bonnie from what I read on the Comptrollers Report the issue with REACH goes back a full two years prior to the removal of the former Director.

Also the state audit reports suggested the need for an independent audit committee as far back as 2005 so I am not to sure how immediate the corrective action actually was.

It seems to me that the opposite is true and that little to no corrective action was taken by anyone.
March 01, 2012 at 12:56pm
whoa, thanks for the free advertising Kevin and be assured that "if or when" I announce I will buy advertisement from the Cannon Courier.
Cutiepie, you are absolutely right thank you.
Bud, there is no information that is hidden from the people, my mistake on "inside" to insight.
Bob Stoetzel
March 01, 2012 at 2:42pm
Corey, according to the archives of the Cannon Courier Web site, the local GOP made the call for an audit committee on Jan. 7, 2011. On that same day, the county executive was quick to agree to that recommendation.

Here is what happened at meetings subsequent to the suggestion:

January 2011

• Approved a motion by Stoetzel to form a county audit committee. The committee will perform in an advisory capacity and make recommendations to help address adverse findings in yearly audits conducted by the State Comptroller's Office. County Executive Mike Gannon said the Comptroller's Office must first approve the county's plan to form the committee, and he said he will submit one to the state before the commission's April meeting.

April 2011

• Delayed the formation of a County Audit Committee. County Executive Gannon said the state's Comptroller's Office has not yet signed off on the plan submitted to form the committee.

July 2011

• Approved Resolution 2011-4, the establishment of an Audit Committee. While approval was given for the formation of the committee, no action was taken on naming members.

Despite extensive searching, I have been unable to find at what meeting members of the committee were named, but I assume it was either in October of at one since then.
March 01, 2012 at 4:20pm
I was pretty sure it was in January of 2011 when members of the Cannon County Republican Party went before the full commission. I wasn't 100% sure, but thanks for the confirmation.

From what I was told I will concur that all those present to include the County Executive agreed that the independent audit committee was the right step and needed.

I remember being beat up a little by people commenting that it was grandstanding on the part of the Cannon GOP to call for it, but in the end we can all agree it was something that was definitley needed and something the State of Tennesee had found repeatedly during audits.

Perhaps now we can move forward and realize we can change some of the things we have always done a certain way despite the belief that improvement of existing policies is not needed or is a bad thing.
March 02, 2012 at 3:34am
The Cannon County Commission is now nearing the end of the eighth fiscal year in which it has recklessly ignored the recommendation of the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury to establish a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing for Cannon County.

Each day, month and year it fails to do so exposes the taxpayers of Cannon County, Tennessee and the United States to waste, fraud and abuse of their money.
March 02, 2012 at 6:37am
Kevin I will agree with you that the County Commissioners have needed and still need to install a central system of accounting, budgeting and purchasing for the county.

However, the issues with REACH go far beyond that and the Comptrollers Report is very specific on its findings and that was just one of them.

The issue of not having a centralized system still does not excuse the inability to use simple, basic best practices when handing out checks to pay people's rent out of the county General Fund or granting maternity leave to someone who had worked for the county 4 weeks and 2 days and paying them $1,100.

Nor does having a centralized system excuse the idea it is ok to permit people to sell scrap metal that belongs to the county.

We both agree that the need has been there for some time for the centralized system, but there is blame enough for both the County Commissioners and the County Executive for not instituting it long before now.

Some of those Commissioners were not on the board eight years ago. It also takes a Chairperson of the Commissioners to place the idea of a centralized system on the agenda and call a special meeting if needed. Neither which was done over the last eight years to my knowledge.

I will say what I have already said:

Perhaps now we can move forward and realize we can change some of the things we have always done a certain way despite the belief that improvement of existing policies is not needed or is a bad thing.
March 02, 2012 at 6:59am
Corey, there is no excusing any of it. There should be no more excuses going forward from anyone involved in county government, from any elected official.

If discussing the establishment of a centralized sytem is not the first item of business after the reading of the minutes on the agenda for this month's meeting of the county commission, there will be no clearer evidence that the governing and legislative malfeasance will continue.
March 02, 2012 at 9:07am
Kevin I can agree with that last statement 100%.

We have been so far behind, for such a long time and no thought of looking toward the future that it has literally come back to bite us in the butt.

It is one of the reasons I get so frustrated at times because getting people to recognize that is a hard thing to do.

Keep the faith, that is all we can do.
March 02, 2012 at 9:30am
With the findings of misuse of funds on a local level in REACH and on a state level with UCDD, what is it going to take for the voters of both parties to step up and say enough is enough?
March 02, 2012 at 12:40pm
In discussing the need for a central accounting office, will this not become another significant expenditure on the part of the county? Who will pay for the staffing required? With the current budget restraints, how can such an office be created without an expectation of tax increases? One would presume a qualified individual would have to be hired to head such a department. A CPA? Would this person also be expected to be the purchasing agent for the county? Where would office space be located? How big a budget with such a new office require? Although it appears easy for the state to make such recommendations, the cost of doing such is borne on the back of the local tax payers. Is the cost (let's say $150,000 per year) justifiable? Are Cannon Co. tax payers ready to see an increase in their tax rate to fund such a department? Sounds like something the commissioners need to hear about from their constituencies. That's not being either pro or con on this issue. But to jump on such an idea without considering those who would fund it, would not appear such a great idea. Perhaps Kevin could get sound cost estimates together for presentation to the public and then set up a poll where the public could at least have one place to voice their opinion.
March 02, 2012 at 1:10pm
Bonnie, for seven straight years the Comptroller's office had told county officials that a central accounting, budgeting and purchasing system is the sound way to conduct its business. It is not a mandate, it is a suggestion. I don't think it is one they would continually make if they did not think it were important to protect taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse and the types of problems their audits find in Cannon County every year.

As to how to go about paying for it, there are now county employees who make accounting, budgeting and purchasing decisions spread throughout county government. The county executive has such a person. So does the sheriff's department, schools, and I believe the highway department. Consolidating at least four positions into a central office would not cost the county any more than it is already spending for those services.
March 02, 2012 at 1:42pm
I would also like to add that it has already cost us a minimum of $60,000 by not having one in place and that could just be the tip of the iceberg for all we know.

Here is an example of what it could also do:

During the 2011 tax increase discussions it was first recommended that we have a .20 cent property tax increase and that was proposed BEFORE the final budget numbers came in for the fiscal year.

At the request of I know Kevin George and other commissioners we waited until the final numbers were released and then based the tax increase off of what we had in the bank instead of speculating like we had in years past.

That saved us approximately an 8 cent tax increase simply by determining what we had, what we needed and what we could cut.

A centralized system would allow a lot more accountability, a lot more transparency and a lot more information readily available at our fingertips instead of guesstimating what we might need if the final numbers fluxuate.
March 02, 2012 at 2:16pm
Kevin and Corey.... Thanks for your comments and clarification. Is there any indication that our county commissioners may consider such an idea during the next meeting?
March 02, 2012 at 2:19pm
Not at this time Bonnie.
March 02, 2012 at 2:53pm
I would also like to say that by doing centralized purchasing it would allow for someone to shop for a better pricing for a certain item or barter better pricing for office supplies, this would be beneficial to tax payers as the money spent would help pay for any extra personnel if any are required.

This would also help with any bidding process that is required for any major expenditures, as it would allow for someone to dedicate more time to look over the bids and make a better decision on them.

I feel that centralized purchasing is beneficial for the citizens of this community. Our government may not be a business or a major corporation, but they do manage millions of dollars each year and a major corporation that handles that same amount of money tend to have centralized purchasing departments.
March 02, 2012 at 4:28pm
Bonnie, if it is not on the agenda for this month's meeting I think it would have more to do with intragovernmental cronyism, politics and protecting turf, than a lack of desire on the part of Cannon County citizens.
March 02, 2012 at 9:31pm
Was really interested in whether or not any of the commissioners had expressed an opinion yet over the issue. Could the subject not be brought up under "other business" were any of them interested in discussing it?
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