Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Area News

February 16, 2011

County receives bill for election commission audit

CROSSVILLE — Commissioners on the budget committee discussed a $4,534 invoice that was submitted to the county from the Tennessee state comptroller's office for services for an investigative audit of the Cumberland County Election Commission.

After the discussion the committee decided to form a resolution for the funds to come out of the election commission's budget instead of the county's general fund balance.

The audit was requested in Feb. 2010 by the election commission after expressing concerns that a consistent rate of pay was not followed for election poll workers in 2006.

"Well, this is really something. We sat here all summer long through 20 something meetings, reviewing budgets and trying to cut corners wherever we could to save peoples' jobs and then they laid someone off. One of their main staff people was laid off by them to save money and then we get a bill for something like this? It's a shame," said Nancy Hyder 2nd District commissioner. "They only have three people running the office over there. That's like laying of a third of the staff."

"Really, this should have been brought to us. They should have told us we'd be getting something like this. I mean $4,500 for an audit? I feel that ought to come out of their budget," said Mike Harvel, 7th District commissioner. "Why so high?"

Cumberland County Finance Director Nathan Brock said, "Anything that's outside of the normal audit is considered an extra charge from the state."

"This is something we needed to know about," Harvel said.

Administrator of Elections Sharon York spoke with members of the Cumberland County Budget Committee last Feb. to discuss the pay rates for poll workers and inquire about a resolution setting the rate of pay.
"I would just like a clarification and it be reflected in the minutes so I can pay people according to what the commission wants us to pay," York said.
York asked about Resolution number 406-3, which was passed by the Cumberland County Commission April 17, 2006.
According to the resolution, election workers were to have an increase in pay from $15 per day to $20 per day for training; an increase from $40 per day to $80 for election officials; and an increase from $5 per day to $10 per day for election officers.
York told the committee then that the numbers matched in May of 2006 for the primary, but during the August 2006 election, the payroll figures did not match. Following elections did not match either, York said.
York said many workers were paid $100 per day instead of $80 and was unsure where the figures came from.

Election Commissioner Chairman Calvin Smart also attended that meeting in Feb. 2010 and said the concerns were the rate of pay was not followed by the resolution and that was why the election commission requested an audit.
"That's a misappropriation or misrepresentation of funds. We have to find out under whose authority this was done ... we have requested an audit on the monies mispent," Smart said to the committee in Feb. 2010. "We are trying to save money and cut funds and need the solid rate of pay."

Former budget committee and county commission members Lynn Tollett and Jim Inman said the election commission in 2006 had mentioned paying election workers more because their hours had been extended.

At the Feb. 2010 budget meeting, Lisa Phillips, election commissioner and former election commission chairperson, said that the funds were within their budget to pay the increase and that the election commission had approved the additional pay to compensate the poll workers.

The election commission approved the audit request in Feb. 2010 in a 3-2 vote. The budget committee at the time was informed of the audit request, but no mention was made to the committee that additional charges for the audit would come from the state.

During last week's budget committee meeting, Harvel motioned to have a resolution drawn up for the $4,534 to come out of the election commission's budget. The motion was supported by Johnny Presley, 3rd District commissioner.

It was unanimously approved by the committee. The resolution will go before the full county commission for its consideration at the next county commission meeting.

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