By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
Writer’s note: The following commentary is a parody, although the accounts of recent audit findings from Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson are true.
NASHVILLE — Tennessee’s reputation as a place where fraud and abuse in government run rampant has reached my hometown in Louisiana, and, because of it, my scamp cousin Clyde, the con artist, wants to live here.
His momma didn’t school him in morals, but she did school him on the art of ripping people off while still hiding under the cloak and dagger of the law.
When he was 6 his mother enrolled him in the school’s free and reduced lunch program — even though he and the rest of his family lived in a gated community close to all the other uppity people.
As far as the school system knew, Clyde and his family lived in a government-subsidized housing project out near the regional airport and had a yearly household income of $10,000 a year.
SWINDLER: Is it possible that local governments in Tennessee are so reckless with taxpayer money that they allow con artists to swoop in and steal it?
“It was just a little fib,” Clyde’s momma told everybody.
“If the school system isn’t going to check up on it, then nobody gets hurt. After all, when you think about it, those are just my tax dollars coming back to me and mine.”
I knew Clyde was forever corrupted when, at age 30, he somehow qualified for an EBT card and withdrew $100 from it to buy somebody’s Obamaphone — which he then sold on the street for $300.
Simply put, Clyde knows how to game the system, and it’s all perfectly legal, just as his momma taught him.
Cousin Clyde, I should add, reads a lot of my stuff on Tennessee Watchdog — but not because he’s a passionate advocate for taxpayers’ rights.
“Tennessee is easy pickins,” Clyde told me on the phone the other night.
“I bet I could get me a good government job up there and, like the Johnny Cash song says, steal it all once piece at a time. I’d have sole access to that money. After 10 years nobody would notice, and I bet I could make half a million dollars.”
“After all, that’s just my tax money coming back to me,” Clyde added.
As it turns out, Clyde has already applied for work in three different governments here in Tennessee — Watertown, Lake County and Carter High School in Knox County.
What’s so special about these places?
Well, according to audits that State Comptroller Justin Wilson recently released:
- Watertown lost $21,773 through its Water and Sewer Fund as well as its meter deposit and connection fee collections. Investigators have yet to determine the identity of the culprit or culprits who stole this money.
- Since 2008, Lake County officials have paid $28,293 to a business County Commissioner Charles Stewart owns, in violation of the state’s conflict of interest laws. This appeals to Clyde, as it tells him that nobody there cares about ethics.
- The former treasurer of the Carter High School Band Booster Club in Knox County reportedly stole $33,700 of the club’s money. Clyde has no children and can’t carry a tune, but he says he’ll figure out a scam somehow.
If none of those places pan out, according to Clyde, there’s plenty of other places in Tennessee that have the same problems.
“People complain about it all the time, but no one ever does anything to stop it. You can even get a job in government with a criminal record up there. I may as well take advantage of the situation,” Clyde said, in his usual candor.
While Clyde’s sense of virtue is in error, his sense of logic is not.
As countless Tennessee Watchdog articles show, local governments still don’t have checks and balances to make theft of taxpayer money more difficult.
Even Wilson makes that statement repeatedly, in audit after audit after audit.
With Clyde moving in next week I’ve decided to either lock up my valuables or glue them to the floor.
I don’t trust Clyde, but he’s family, so I have to take him in.
Oddly enough, nobody in any Tennessee government is beholden to Clyde for anything, yet I suspect he’ll have no problems getting work here.
Tennessee taxpayers, consider yourselves warned.
Contact Christopher Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org
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