State comptroller: Local agency squanders taxpayer dollars - WSMV News 4

State comptroller: Local agency squanders taxpayer dollars

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The people at one public agency are facing criticism for sparing no expense on out-of-state trips, extravagant meals and theater performances.

More than $2 million taxpayer dollars covered travel, entertainment and booze for the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency, according to an audit by the state comptroller.

Among the most jaw-dropping expenses was a nearly $60,000 trip to Washington, where 34 people consumed nearly $5,000 in food and drinks.

The receipts from that trip last March show the group dined on upscale meals at the Capitol Grill and the Oceanaire, and it was nothing but the finest of dining for these guys. Hundreds were spend on seafood platters and filet mignon, as well as Mai Tai and vodka drinks tabbed at as much as $70 each.

The buck doesn't stop at the dining table. The audit also shows frequent trips from Cookeville to Nashville, where staff members met with state officials and lawmakers.

They dined at Morton's Steak House and even used tax dollars to buy booze at local liquor stores. Plus, nearly $20,000 in public funds were spent for the agency's annual meeting and holiday party.

On top of all of that, the comptroller also found the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency has its own resort that is supposed to be used as a training facility. The Lakeside Resort was originally set up to be profitable and self-sufficient, but over the years the agency has subsidized the resort to the tune of nearly $1.7 million. And according to the audit, the agency never made any effort to get that money back.

The Channel 4 I-Team spoke with the current executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resources Agency, who has only been on the job for three months. The comptroller's office said this most recent audit did not involve him, rather it was then under the direction of former director Phyllis Bennett, who is now deceased.

The new director said many changes have been made and the agency is doing everything it can to make sure it is a good steward of tax dollars. That includes putting the Lakeside Resort up for sale.

The comptroller's findings were forwarded to the district attorney's office, and it will be up to that office to decide whether or not any laws were broken.

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