Fentress County, TN official: Bad management led to library theft


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — A grand jury has indicted the former Fentress County Library director on charges she used $40,000 of taxpayer money for personal reasons, a finding state Comptroller Justin Wilson corroborates.

But that doesn’t mean measures weren’t already in place to prevent this sort of theft from happening, said David Beaty, who served as county executive from 1998-2002.

Beaty believes current county officials somehow did away with the measures he implemented during his term to improve oversight of taxpayer money.

“There is a history of the library money being managed improperly, and, now, someone finally got into trouble,” said Beaty, who told Tennessee Watchdog he has no desire to ever seek political office again.

A new audit says Fentress County’s library director used a county debit card to make plenty of withdrawals for herself.

He said his motives in speaking out on this matter are purely those of a concerned citizen.

“There were problems with fraud, problems with timesheets and all kinds of other things when I served. County commissioners turned against me for trying to fix them,” Beaty said.

“The auditor reported these problems at that time. I closed the bank account and forced the library to go through the trustee’s office for their daily deposits and to get purchase orders. That straightened the problems out. Now I’m wondering how they ever got back to a system so that only one person could control it and nobody could catch it.”

According to the new audit, the former library director, Leslie Pullins, obtained a debit card on the library account in 2009. Pullins used the card to make unauthorized ATM withdrawals and receive cash back while depositing money into the library’s bank account, the audit said.

Wilson also said Pullins took cash that the library collected for late book return fines, copying and faxing fees and the county’s historical society and used it on herself. Pullins also used library money to repay a family member’s personal loan, the audit said.

“Investigators noted that during the same period, Ms. Pullins apparently deposited $7,000 of her own money into the library account,” according to the audit.

All of this was lost on library board members, who were supposed to have oversight over Pullins’ activities, the audit said.

Beaty said county commissioners should have had better oversight themselves over that library board.

Current County Executive Frank Smith defeated Beaty in a 2010 election for that position and has had a number of public skirmishes with Beaty over the years. Those skirmishes include a lawsuit Beaty filed against Smith for removing Beaty from a commission meeting and profane insults Smith hurled toward Beaty at another commission meeting. Smith said new accountability measures are in place as a result of the Pullins case.

“The library is operated under a board, but the board failed to take steps to stop anything happening there, so we stepped in,” Smith said.

Fentress County Executive Frank Smith

“We have not taken any actions against the library board. Those members are appointed for a set time and they have not been replaced as of yet.”

Smith said the following about Beaty and his remarks that commissioners failed to provide enough oversight over the library board:

“He sits on the sidelines. If he was so good at his job then why did he get beat after his first term? He claims a lot of things that he shouldn’t.”

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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