By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog
NASHVILLE — The former city recorder for Collinwood allegedly stole nearly $100,000 from taxpayers in only a one-year span and used that money on herself, according to an audit released Monday by state Comptroller Justin Wilson.
Former employee Melissa Broome allegedly took $94,426 by withholding cash collected for utility payments, swimming pool fees and property taxes, according to the audit.
Tennessee Watchdog contacted a woman by the same name who lives in Collinwood through her Facebook page, but she didn’t respond to our message before publication. Other efforts to contact Broome were unsuccessful.
A Wayne County grand jury charged Broome last month with one count of theft of more than $60,000, according to comptroller spokesman Blake Fontenay.
During one month alone last year Broome recorded more than $19,000 in utility cash collections, but she allegedly deposited only $117 in cash into the city’s utility bank account, the audit said.
Wilson’s audit indicated a poor lack of controls led to the alleged thefts. The audit specifically criticized the mayor and the city’s Board of Commissioners for not overseeing Broome’s work.
“The comptroller’s investigation determined that the city created a climate that made the thefts easier by allowing Broome to handle all aspects of financial transactions,” Fontenay said in a statement.
Broome, the audit said, had sole responsibility for recording utility collections and preparing related bank statements.
Collinwood City Manager Jeff Robertson told Tennessee Watchdog on Monday that he and other city officials had no comment, at least until the matter concludes.
“Many of the commissioners are new. This is their first year in office,” Robertson said, adding that certain past commissioners chose not to seek re-election during the past two years, while others were voted out.
“Pretty much all of the employees in the office, myself included, are new, so we are reserving comment. We are putting internal control measures in place. We are trying to remedy this situation at this time,” Robertson said.
Wilson’s latest audit is just one of many his office has released this year identifying theft of taxpayer money at the local or county level in Tennessee.
Wilson also identified other instances of theft in New Market and Arlington.
Another audit reported that the former Fentress County Library director took $40,000 of taxpayer money for personal reasons.
This year’s General Assembly didn’t address theft of taxpayer money at the local level, but Rep. Kent Williams, I-Elizabethon, suggested to Tennessee Watchdog earlier this year that state officials should increase penalties for theft.
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