TN county named after American folk hero claims no responsibility for 911 shenanigans

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Employees of Crockett County, Tenn., could take a lot from the taxpayers — even a coonskin cap — and it’s debatable whether the county government would assume any responsibility.

County Mayor Gary Reasons, for instance, has chosen a rather peculiar way to absolve the county of any fault over a highly unfavorable finding, which state Comptroller Justin Wilson released Wednesday.

Yes, the county is named after Davy Crockett.

The county seat, perhaps not coincidentally, is called Alamo — auditors will certainly remember.

AUDIT: County Mayor Gary Reasons has chosen a rather peculiar way to absolve the county of any fault over a highly unfavorable finding, which state Comptroller Justin Wilson released Wednesday.

According to Wilson’s audit, the former assistant director of the Emergency Communications District, Michelle Smallwood, stole more than $88,000 from that agency. A grand jury indicted her on charges of theft, forgery and official misconduct.

But, according to Reasons, what Smallwood did is not the county’s problem, and the audit should not have mentioned it.

“That agency is not a part of the county in any way whatsoever,” Reasons told Tennessee Watchdog on Wednesday.

“Sure, it’s physically in Crockett County, but no taxpayer dollars go to it. That money comes from phone-service fees.”

If that’s so, Tennessee Watchdog wondered, who holds the Emergency Communications District employees, including the director and assistant director, responsible?

Reasons said that a board of directors oversees the district.

And who, Tennessee Watchdog asked, appoints members to that board?

“The Crockett County Commission appoints the board, the same way we do the local water board. But the Crockett County government is not responsible for 911 in any form or fashion as far as the daily operations or overseeing its financial matters.”

But if commissioners appoint the board, isn’t the county still, in some way, responsible?

“No, it’s not the county’s fault. We have nothing to do with it. We fund no money to them whatsoever,” Reasons said.

Even though commissioners appoint and re-appoint board members for an unlimited number of terms, Reasons said county officials could only remove them through a court order, and that’s only if the county can prove wrongdoing.

Emergency Communications District Director Brian Black did not immediately respond to Tennessee Watchdog’s message seeking comment.

Justin Wilson

Comptroller spokesman Blake Fontenay told Tennessee Watchdog that Reasons’ interpretation is incorrect.

“The Emergency Communications District is a component unit of their county government.”

Wilson’s audit also reported a janitor, Charles Tomlinson, took more than $4,000 from the county Clerk’s office, while other county departments had significant management and bookkeeping issues.

A grand jury indicted Tomlinson in December on charges related to the theft of money left in an unlocked cabinet at the courthouse, Wilson said in a statement.

Also, according to the audit, Reasons’ office and the director of schools spent more money than was budgeted for their operations.

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

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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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