Dept. of Tourist Development under audit over spent tax dollars - WSMV Channel 4

Dept. of Tourist Development under audit over spent tax dollars

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

What began as a Channel 4 I-Team investigation now has the state investigating how your tax dollars were spent in the Department of Tourist Development.

Department Commissioner Susan Whitaker certainly didn't want to talk to the Channel 4 I-Team back in May, but some of her staff are talking to state investigators now.

In an email from Comptroller Justin Wilson to State Rep. Gary Moore, Wilson writes, "The Division of State Audit began a review of the allegations outlined in the Channel 4 report in May. The review is still in progress."

The email came in response to Moore's request for an audit after Moore watched our I-Team investigation.

"Two reasons: shock, and the other one was appalled at what appeared to be going on," Rep. Moore said.

The Channel 4 I-Team found how the marketing firm White Thompson out of Memphis initially won a state bid to develop travel brochures at a cost of roughly $15,000 each.

But we found that estimate somehow more than doubled just a year later.

In fact, it cost more than $100,000 to put a brochure in tourist destinations all over the state.

"That was one thing that really bothered me, that there appeared to be no real checks and balances," Moore said.

We also found the agency paid White Thompson $15,000 to make a video thanking the commissioner for doing her job.

And there's more.

The Channel 4 I-Team has also found questions about a revolving door between Tourist Development and White Thompson. The agency's former marketing director Jennifer Littlejohn, who was heavily involved in the brochures, then left the state to work for White Thompson.

And at White Thompson, she handled the state's account.

And then, this year, she left White Thompson to come back to work for the state in the same position.

"That warrants further investigation itself," Moore said.

The I-Team asked the Department of Tourist Development to respond to the fact that the agency is being audited, but the spokeswoman only responded with a statement saying they are complying with the auditors.

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