Hawkins school budget director explains misleading 'cash shortage'

Jeff Bobo • Mar 19, 2019 at 11:58 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Schools Budget Director Melissa Farmer has spent much of the past couple weeks explaining a very misleading state audit finding which identifies "a cash shortage of $64,800."

That finding is actually related to theft and misconduct criminal charges pending against the former Rogersville water superintendent Shawn Hatchett, and was not the result of anything the school system did wrong.

Farmer explained to the county commission's Budget Committee Monday that the school system initially received a clean audit with no findings.

After it was sent to Nashville, however, the state comptroller's office added the "cash shortage" finding.

In April of 2018, Hatchett was indicted by the Hawkins County Grand Jury for theft over $250,000, theft over $60,000, and official misconduct for allegedly stealing at least $338,929 from the Rogersville Water Department over the course of about three years.

As a result of that initial investigation it was later revealed that Hatchett allegedly took payments totaling $64,800 between 2011-17 from the Hawkins County School System to conduct wastewater testing which never took place.

In August of 2018, Hatchett was indicted on an additional 57 counts of theft and misconduct related to the school wastewater testing allegations.

He is scheduled to stand trial on all charges in Hawkins County Criminal Court on June 17.

"We were contracting with Mr. Hatchett to conduct our wastewater testing," Farmer told the committee Monday. "During the course of their investigation, they did not find where testing had actually been done. He was giving us an invoice to pay for services that they say he did not actually do."

Farmer added, "I was told by (the state's) county audit (division) that any time there's a loss of cash, that's an automatic finding, even though it's beyond our control. We did have an initial exit where we had a clean audit, and once it got sent to Nashville they had to re-do it."

Farmer noted that after the final audit was published she received many calls from county officials seeking an explanation for the "cash shortage of $64,800."

The auditor recommendation states, "School Department officials should continue to take steps to collect the cash shortage of $64,800 and should monitor any future contracted services to ensure required procedures for wastewater system testing is properly performed."

Farmer said they are working with the attorney generals office to seek restitution.

Aside form that one blemish, Hawkins County and the school system had an otherwise clean audit with no negative findings.


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