Hawkins Mayor turns in Central Dispatch bank records to Comptroller for investigation

Members of the 911 board listen as Chairman Mike Herrell (back row, center) explains that the comptroller may be investigating after Hawkins Mayor Jim Lee (not pictured) recently turned Central Dispatch bank statements in to comptroller.

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County’s 911 Central Dispatch may be investigated by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury, as Hawkins Co. Mayor Jim Lee turned in Central Dispatch bank statements for the past three years to the Comptroller’s office on Jan. 8, 2020, regarding unspecified “inconsistencies” which the Mayor claims he noticed in those documents.

This comes after controversy over the Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement between the county and Central Dispatch that has been brewing since September.

Hawkins County provides $175,000 to Central Dispatch each year. In exchange, Central Dispatch provides dispatching services for all first responders, including police and fire departments, and assumes all potential legal liabilities instead of allowing those to fall upon the county.

The county commission voted for Central Dispatch to receive their allotted $175,000 this year, and Murrell told the 911 board back in September that the $175,000 goes into the Central Dispatch General Fund and the majority of it is spent on salaries.

In September, Lee requested 911 Central Dispatch’s bank records for the past three years, Murrell’s payroll summary for the past three years, the minutes from the meeting during which Murrell’s employee contract was signed as well as the meeting prior to the contract being signed.

“Before I enter into a contract with them, I would like to see their bank statements and credit card statements for the past three years,” Lee told the Review in September. “I was elected to watch over the county’s money, and that’s what I’m doing. She (Murrell) shows them to me, and then we’ll talk about the contract if everything turns out okay.”

The county still has no Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement though 911 Director Gay Murrell and the 911 board have given Lee the records he requested of them back in September.

Mayor received bank records in November

In correction of an article the Review published on Jan. 3, claiming that Murrell and the 911 board had not yet turned over the requested records, the records were given to Lee back in November.

911 board Chairman Mike Herrell told the Review that the holdup in transferring the information came because Lee initially verbally requested the information. Herrell told the Review that he then asked the Mayor to request the information in writing so that the 911 board would have proof of the request.

Lee then formally requested the above information via email, and Herrell gave paper copies of the information to Lee on Nov. 14.

“I found inconsistencies”

Lee told the Review that he turned over these bank statements to the comptroller because he “found some inconsistencies” in them though he did not specify what these were.

The Review reached out to Murrell for input on the situation, but she did not wish to comment.

However, back in September, Murrell told the Review, “We have a yearly audit that is done by David M. Ellis, certified public auditor. If there was anything wrong, this gentleman would find it. If there’s a question, he asks the question. We have to show credit card receipts. We have to show our bank statements. There’s not a thing to hide. I don’t know what the issue is.”

She went on to explain that Central Dispatch’s yearly audits can be easily found on the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury’s website, as can any other local government audit.

“It’s all there,” she said. “It’s public record. Everything is public record. It’s all right here. What is spent. Salaries. Everything.”

At the Jan. 9, 911 board meeting, Herrell announced to the board that the center might be investigated.

“We’ve been notified that the comptroller might be coming in,” he said. “I just wanted to let the board know that this might be an issue down the road, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

When Murrell asked Lee to elaborate at the meeting, he said, “I can’t comment on that.”

In regard to the interlocal agreement, Lee told the Review that, at this point, he has no plans to sign it.