Former mayor may have spent $75,000 in taxpayer money on himself

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — The former mayor of Gadsden may have used as much as $75,000 in taxpayer money for his own benefit, according to an audit that Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson released Wednesday.

The audit itself did not mention the name of the former mayor, whose term ended in 2013. His term as the town’s fire chief ended in February. A spokeswoman for the Crockett County Elections Commission said Steve Selph was the mayor of Gadsden during that time. The University of Tennessee’s Institute for Public Service still lists Selph as the fire chief.

Tennessee Watchdog left a message seeking comment at Selph’s home Wednesday, but he did not respond.

No one at Gadsden City Hall returned Tennessee Watchdog’s requests for comment Wednesday to comment on the matter.

The former mayor of Gadsden may have used $75,000 in taxpayer money on himself, according to a new audit.

Between 2009 and 2013, according to the audit, the former mayor bought gasoline, cigarettes and food totaling at least $33,775 from a local convenience store and charged it all to the town.

“The mayor/fire chief admitted to us that he had obtained the gasoline for his personal vehicle, as well as other items, and charged these purchases to the town. The mayor/fire chief advised us the town did not have a vehicle that he could use, and he had been doing a lot of ‘running around on behalf of the town,” auditors wrote in the report.

“However, we noted instances the mayor/fire chief obtained gasoline for his personal vehicle, but falsified the documentation on the receipt to describe the fuel purchase as being for the ‘brush truck and gas can’ or ‘brush truck.’”

The audit also said the former mayor spent $1,416 buying computers, clothes and a dentures cleaner at Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and Office Max.

In another finding, audits said the former mayor used $39,925 in town money on repair parts for his personal truck.

Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson

“In addition, our review of the town’s Wal-Mart disbursements revealed numerous food items purchased, as well as numerous items purchased from Gadsden Supermarket,” the audit reads.

“Based on interviews with several of the volunteer firefighters, the mayor/fire chief rarely purchased food for the fire station. Due to the mayor/fire chief’s propensity to use town funds, we could not ascertain whether some of these items were for personal or town use.”

Auditors also reported that the district attorney general for Tennessee’s 28th Judicial District has reviewed their findings, but District Attorney General Garry Brown did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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