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Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities made unapproved bonuses, other questionable expenses

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NASHVILLE (WRCB) -- A investigation of the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities by the Tennessee State Comptroller's office revealed unapproved bonuses, missing inventory and other questionable expenses, all made with money from customers of the utility.

In 2012, employees at the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities received Easter eggs with notes, informing them that they would be receiving special bonuses.

Bonuses were also routinely doled out around holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July – or, for some of the more favored employees – almost weekly.
The utility's former superintendent didn't have board approval to distribute nearly $300,000 for bonuses from 2008 through 2011. The was one finding investigators from the Comptroller's office uncovered during a review of the utility's business practices.
Employees were rewarded by bonus for doing routine parts of their jobs, such as reporting water theft or scouting possible water intake sites along the river.

In other cases, employees received overtime pay despite not working extra hours. Bonuses were also dispersed through random drawings.

One employee received a bonus for "adultery watch," which involved monitoring a fellow employee during work hours.
The investigation documents that the former superintendent also gave more than $13,000 in water adjustments, which amounts to discounts on water bills and new water taps, to utility board members, employees and some customers.

Almost $4,000 of those adjustments were given to volunteer firefighters who attended annual dinners held to foster good will between the utility and local fire departments.

Other adjustments were given at the former superintendent's discretion.
Board members were overpaid more than $12,000 for attending board meetings, work sessions and "road trips." The former superintendent and former office manager made more than $10,000 worth of questionable credit card charges to the district, including more than $5,000 for meals for employees who were not traveling or conducting official business.
"Ratepayer money is public money, just as taxpayer money is," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said.
View the Comptroller's report online.
View scanned images and photographs related to the investigation here.

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