State Audit Finds Lincoln Co. Employees Received Unapproved Bonu - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

State Audit Finds Lincoln Co. Employees Received Unapproved Bonuses

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by Emily Luxen

FAYETTEVILLE, Tenn. - The Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities is in some hot water after a state audit uncovered the mismanagement of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The audit released by the state comptroller's office revealed the utility's former superintendent used ratepayer money to give employees unapproved bonuses, and oversaw questionable credit card charges and bill adjustments.  State officials said the findings were concerning.

"Anytime you have allegations of misuse of taxpayer of funds, or ratepayer funds, it's a serious matter,"  said Jim Arnette, the Director of Local Government Audit.

The report found bonuses were often given to employees around holidays.  $300,000 in unapproved bonuses were given from 2008 through 2011.  Employees sometimes received bonuses for doing routine parts of their jobs.  Some employees received overtime pay even when they didn't work extra hours.  One employee even received a bonus for "adultery watch," which involved monitoring another employee during work hours.

"Bonuses are not a bad thing," said Arnette. "However, the way they were awarded was certainly unacceptable."

In addition, the report accused the former superintendent of giving more than $13,000 in discounts on water bills and new water taps to utility board members, employees and some customers.

The former superintendent and former office manager made more than $10,000 worth of questionable credit card charges to the district.

"There were movie tickets, Christmas cards, airline tickets, gift certificates and several things we felt were inappropriate," aid Arnette.

Lincoln County residents were outraged to hear about the state's findings.

"It makes me a little upset to know if you are working like me and my husband," said Dana Davis. "We don't get those big fat bonuses."

Ronnie Braden, the current Superintendent at the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities, said the findings were embarrassing and disappointing.  However, he said he hopes with new management running the utility, they can work to rebuild the public's confidence.

Arnette said the report has been handed over to the district attorney general.  It is unknown if any criminal charges will be filed.  He hopes the Lincoln County Commission will help monitor the utility and keep an eye out for possible future problems.

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