Grainger County officials have a special cell phone discount no one else is allowed to have, and they abused their privileges, according to an audit Tennessee Comptrollers released Thursday.
Specifically, Comptrollers called out the county’s Emergency Communications District, saying district officials skipped out on paying the appropriate cell phone taxes when they used those phones for personal reasons. Some of those taxes fund the district itself.
The district gets a discount through Verizon, but only when it’s for official district business.
Executive Director Randy Holt, the audit went on to say, used that Verizon discount to buy a cell phone for his own personal use. He also incurred monthly service charges for two of his family members.
“The district paid the Verizon account statement balances, which included these cell phones and related service charges,” Comptrollers wrote.
Among the other findings:
• Without telling board members, Holt allowed district employees to apply the Verizon discount on their personal cell phones. Employees reimbursed the district through payroll deductions. One employee stayed on the plan, even though this person transitioned to a part-time job. That person’s pay “was not sufficient to reimburse fully the monthly service charges,” according to the audit.
• Holt also allowed a vendor to purchase four mobile Wi-Fi routers through the district’s Verizon account for the vendor’s use.
When reached Thursday, Holt said he and other ECD members didn’t know they had done anything wrong.
“The report Comptrollers gave to my board said there is no missing money. We didn’t use government money to do any of this stuff. I am figuring out a way to get out of this. It’s kind of a small deal that looks like it’s mushroomed on us, and we’re just going to stop,” Holt said.
Holt said he won’t defend letting his family members participate in the program.
“When you look back now, it doesn’t pass the test, so it stopped. We acknowledge we made a mistake, but at the time no one told us we couldn’t. Any negative is a negative, and there is nothing I can say to fix it or stop it,” Holt said.
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