ROGERSVILLE — A former Water Superintendent is tentatively set to plead guilty on April 29 in connection with his indictments on 60 counts relating to theft, misconduct, falsifying of official records (violations of the Water Pollution Control Act), and the theft of approximately $370,000 that he allegedly embezzled from his employer, the Rogersville Water Department.
Shawn Hatchett, 51, was indicted by a Hawkins Co. Grand Jury in the spring of 2018 on one count of theft of over $250,000, one count of theft of over $60,000, and one count of official misconduct, and, later that summer, he was indicted by a subsequent Grand Jury on one count of theft of over $60,000, one count of forgery over $60,000, and 55 additional counts related to the alleged falsifying of water testing results for the Hawkins Co. School System.
According to published reports, Third District Attorney General Dan Armstrong’s office sent a letter last week to the Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen — which took over as the town’s Water Board after the Hatchett fiasco — advising members that all counts will be resolved with Hatchett prepared to enter one “guilty” plea in Hawkins Co. Criminal Court on April 29.
As a result, a trial will not be necessary.
The exact terms of the plea agreement won’t be disclosed until after Hatchett’s plea hearing.
An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, working in conjunction with the state’s Bureau of Investigation and Rogersville Police Department, resulted in the initial indictment of Hatchett, State Comptroller Justin Wilson announced on April 18, 2018.
The Rogersville Water Commission — which has since been abolished — suspended Hatchett with pay on July 18, 2017, and terminated him on August 14, 2017.
Hatchett was indicted by a Hawkins Co. Grand Jury on one count of theft of property of over $250,000, one count of theft of property over $60,000, and one count of official misconduct.
“Investigators determined that Hatchett failed to deposit $69,444 in cash by withholding money from 16 separate water department deposits he was supposed to deliver to the bank,” Wilson said in a news release. “Hatchett used a lapping scheme to carry out the theft. This scheme involves diverting a day’s collections for personal benefit and then concealing the misappropriation by depositing in its place a subsequent day’s collection.
“Hatchett stole an additional $500 by preparing an unauthorized check made payable to a department employee and requesting that the employee cash the check and bring the cash back to him. Hatchett kept the cash for his personal use.
“Investigators also revealed that, beginning in 2015, Hatchett gave himself thousands of hours of compensatory time (comp time), even though city policies made him ineligible for comp time. In January 2017, for example, Hatchett ordered the water department payroll clerk to add 3,000 hours of comp time to his leave balance.
“Finally, Hatchett failed to notify water department board members that he had been working with Hawkins County Schools as a private contractor. This prevented board members from determining whether or not a conflict of interest existed.”
Then, in August of 2018, the Comptroller’s Office announced that a second investigation involving Hatchett, as the former superintendent of the Town of Rogersville Water Department and as a contractor for the Hawkins Co. Board of Education, had resulted in 57 additional charges.
In that investigation, a Hawkins Co. Grand Jury indicted Hatchett on one count of theft over $60,000, one count of forgery over $60,000, and 55 counts of Violation of the Water Pollution Control Act.
Hatchett was contracted as a certified operator for the Hawkins Co. BOE and allegedly fraudulently claimed and received $64,800 in fees between April 8, 2011 and December 12, 2017. Investigators found that Hatchett did not perform the work he was paid to do.
Hatchett was contracted to conduct required tests for wastewater treatment systems at various schools in Hawkins County. After performing the tests, he was responsible for filling out reports to document the test results.
Hatchett documented that he performed the tests at the Town of Rogersville sewer treatment plant laboratory. However, employees at the plant told investigators that samples from the schools had not been tested at the facility. Additionally, no logs, notes, or records documenting that Hatchett had used the sewer treatment plant’s laboratory were found.
Water Commission abolished
The Rogersville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, during a May 8, 2018 meeting, approved on the first of three required readings an ordinance to abolish the Rogersville Water Commission and invest its powers, duties and responsibilities in the BMA.
Ordinance 5-8-18-1 was later approved after the required three readings, with members of the BMA now attending to water- and sewer-related business within the town.