Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 8, 2013

Veteran's Service Office investigation audit to cost county $8,774

By Gary Nelson
Senior staffwriter

CROSSVILLE — A state audit investigation of the former Veteran's Service Officer's records will cost Cumberland County $8,775.

That figure was revealed Tuesday evening during the county's monthly budget committee meeting and the committee approved a resolution to pay the bill.

"Is there any way to recoup this or any of this?" 7th District Commissioner Mike Harvel asked.

"Well, it's possible, but it depends on so many different things," Harry Sabine, 1st District commissioner and budget committee chairman, said.

"Is this the final bill? I mean, will there be any added to this later?" Sabine asked.

"Yes, we've also asked the district attorney's office to include the amount in the total of damages to the county," Nathan Brock, Cumberland County finance director said.

Brock explained that Cumberland County Mayor's office received the bill from the State of Tennessee Comptroller's office for the time it spent auditing the records of the Cumberland County Veteran's Service Office.

The bill simply states one item, investigation audit, and a total of $8,774.51.

The joint audit and investigation sparked the indictment and arrest of former VSO Mark Daniels in September 2012. The indictment states that between Oct. 1, 2010, and June 15, 2012, Daniels did "knowingly exercise control over ... currency and checks of the value of over $10,000 belonging to Cumberland County."

A report released in August by the Comptroller’s Division of Investigations alleges the former VSO used at least $134,244.58 for his own personal gain over a period spanning more than three years.

Although Daniels repaid some of the missing funds, the Comptroller’s investigation indicated there was still an unpaid shortage of more than $112,000 as of Sept. 30, 2012.

Daniels was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and later fired.

That case is still pending in Criminal Court and Daniels has entered a plea of not guilty.

Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie met with Cumberland County commissioners last month, along with county attorney Randal Boston, during a closed session of the county commission to discuss the case prior to the October county commission meeting.

"We would have not had to do this (audit) had none of this happened," Dave Hassler, 3rd District commissioner said.

"Is the bill itemized? That's something the state auditors questioned ... It looks like they picked a number out of the air," 9th District Commissioner Carmin Lynch said.

Lynch is not currently on the budget committee but attended the meeting.

"There are no hours or itemization of the time spent," Brock answered.

He explained that he placed the item in the Veteran's Service Officee budget just for it to be shown there, but the funds would come from the county's general fund and would not have an effect on the current Veteran's Service Office budget.

The resolution was passed after a motion to approve was made by Terry Carter, 6th District commissioner. Carter's motion was supported by Harvel.

The full county commission will have to approve the resolution before the bill can be paid to the state comptroller's office.