$47K in public money spent on clothing, meals in Bedford Co. - WSMV Channel 4

$47K in public money spent on clothing, meals in Bedford Co.

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Cathey Mathis Cathey Mathis
SHELBYVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

About $47,000 allocated to the Bedford County Emergency Communications District was spent to buy brand name clothing, meals and other questionable items for more than six years, according to a state audit released Monday.

The Bedford County Emergency Communications District receives 911 fees collected from telephone bills to provide enhanced 911 emergency telephone service for the area it serves.

Now, former Bedford County E911 Director Cathey Mathis is the focus of the scathing audit from the state Comptroller's Office.

According to the audit, Mathis claimed the collected money was used for clothing purchases for employee uniforms.

However, receipts show that the money was used to buy items at Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Cabelas, Dillard's and several small specialty stores.

"It's very troubling anytime you see these taxpayers' - rate payers' - funds that are bluntly being misused as it was here," said Jim Arnette, a state auditor.

The former director also charged numerous meals to the district's credit cards in situations in which there was no documentation that she was traveling overnight on business.

The audit says the charges included an $84.84 tab at J. Alexander's restaurant in Franklin, TN, and a $40.03 tab at Toot's in Murfreesboro, TN.

State auditors said there were also meals purchased while the former director was on overnight travel, even though she had already received a travel advance. In other words, taxpayers paid for the same meal twice.

"She was either taking someone to lunch or either enjoying a very fine meal," Arnette said.

The state said there was also little or no documentation to verify other purchases the former director made for business-related purposes, including a bag purchased at a Coach store in Pigeon Forge, two iPods, two Nooks and a Bosch Pro Drill.

The bag, drill, iPod and Nook have not been returned to the district.

"We're the 'money cop,' as the comptroller likes to call us," Arnette said. "We're responsible for making sure these taxpayers' funds are spent as they supposed to be spent."

The newly appointed Bedford County E911 Board noticed the questionable purchases and lax policies about a year ago and turned the finding over to the state.

The E911 Board has already started making changes, such as adopting the county's travel, bidding, and purchasing policies.

"We want to be above board with the taxpayers' dollars and just make sure everything is being operated correctly," said board chairman Mark Thomas, who is also Bedford County Fire Chief.

Mathis, who had been an employee for about 26 years, resigned last year. State auditors said criminal charges are possible.

"Our report has been turned over to the district attorney," Arnette said. "It will be up to the district attorney whether they want to pursue criminal charges which could lead to restitution."

Mathis could not be reached for comment on this story.

To view the complete report, visit: http://comptroller.tn.gov/repository/CA/2012/bedford%20E911.pdf.

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