Stealing from taxpayers is easy, if you simply apply yourself

Chris Butler
|
Aug 21, 2014 5:00 AM
Stealing from taxpayers is easy, if you simply apply yourself

By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

(NOTE: This commentary is a parody and is meant to be construed as such.)

NASHVILLE — So you’re a government employee.

You have access to government money.

You take some of it for yourself — times are hard.

Judgmental self-righteous geezers call it stealing money, but people who are hip to the times realize this cash came from taxpayers and thus belongs to the people.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

ARCHIVED: State documents report a Tennessee State Museum employee took money from taxpayers.

Earlier this year, Tennessee Watchdog recommended the five best ways to steal from taxpayers, but the original list was by no means definitive.

Pay attention, folks.

Your government employers might not give a damn what you do, but the cold, hard truth is that one slip up might attract the notice of those squares at the state Comptrollers office.

These additional rules, while hardly foolproof, will increase your odds of getting back the fair share you’re entitled to.

(1) If you plan to steal, don’t shy away from a job in government just because you have a criminal record or conviction.

According to a Comptroller’s audit released Wednesday, a former administrative services assistant with the Tennessee State Museum took $61,892.04 in taxpayer money.

The unnamed employee used her role as a processor of purchase orders and requisitions to create phony invoices for historical artifacts. She also used a rental car for 15 months and billed $12,415.97 to the museum after her personal car broke down.

The audit says the woman was already a convicted felon on parole for theft of property valued at more than $60,000.

Museum officials, possibly too busy bombarding downtown Nashville with super-sized selfies, weren’t aware of her criminal past.

You would think state officials would have measures in place to prevent this, but the good news is that isn’t completely accurate.

“Tennessee Code Annotated provides for background checks for various positions within state government, such as jobs pertaining to law enforcement and jobs with responsibility for someone’s safety and well-being, but there is not a standard requirement for all employees to undergo background checks.”

(2) Just because you read about a specific instance of waste, fraud or abuse in Tennessee Watchdog doesn’t mean government officials have clamped down on it … depending on who you’re related to.

One need look no further than the Chuckey Utility District of Greene and Washington counties, identified earlier this year as a place where utility officials completely forgot about extremely important contracts they had signed earlier.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported in January, they also gave unauthorized bonuses — to themselves.

According to an audit Comptrollers released this month, these problems still exist.

The now-retired general manager, Shirley Collins, reportedly received $25,056 in unapproved bonuses courtesy of her daughter, the utility’s former general manager, Kandie Jennings.

Jennings, according to the audit, spent $2,064 of district money to buy an Apple MacBook Pro and accessories for her personal benefit.

(3) Don’t disclose on your job interview that you or your relatives enjoy blowing wads of cash on video games.

We would never expect state officials to profile job candidates based on their personal proclivities — but there is an apparent correlation between people who get caught taking money and those who enjoy video games.

Jennings, or one of her relatives, used her MacBook Pro exclusively for gaming, particularly the video game Minecraft, according to auditors.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

MINECRAFT: Possibly a popular video game among government employees.

Meanwhile, auditors recently revealed that in Humphreys County an elementary teacher took more than $11,000 from Lakeview Elementary School for personal use.

Among those items — an Xbox membership.

Keep those gaming habits to yourself, or risk setting off tons of red flags with your would-be employer — not to mention your local district attorney possibly investigating you for possible prosecution if you’re caught buying Donkey Kong with the taxpayers’ piece of the pie.

(4) Grant coordinators and bookkeepers are in perfect positions to infiltrate government.

A recently released audit blames four former employees of the Wayne County School Department for taking $319,134.58 in school money.

One was a grants coordinator and the others were bookkeepers who reportedly took unauthorized payroll payments and classified them to teacher salary account codes. This was all in addition to their regular salaries.

Tennessee Watchdog previously has documented many other cases in which bookkeepers and people who have oversight over grant money reportedly pilfered taxpayer money.

(5) State officials still don’t seem inclined to make checks and balances and oversight of taxpayer money a priority. Get the money while the gettin’s good.

Tennesseans eager for some easy money only have five months until the next legislative session. ContentTheft-Large

The last thing we need is some do-gooder type introducing legislation that increases the likelihood government officials tighten their reins over taxpayer money.

There are no indications that will happen, but one never knows, especially with elections coming up.

Don’t waste any time.

Apply for a job in state government today.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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