Strut brass reacts to audit findings after theft - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Strut brass reacts to audit findings after theft

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"We've had some slip-ups, we don't hide from them, and we're going to make the corrections and I think that's a part of growth and process," says Bessie Smith Cultural Center Chairman Jeffrey Wilson, who was flanked by the organization's blue ribbon panel, which investigated what went wrong after the 2014 Bessie Smith Strut and what to make right going forward.

Wilson says an independent audit shows bad accounting and lax policies.

"There were gaps in the safety and security procedures the night of the Strut and also for a number of months, this includes an inoperative security system and other storage and cash handling measures," said Wilson from a prepared statement Thursday, months after the June 9th burglary of the Cultural Center.

Thirty-five-year old Torrey Lamar Hines, a contract worker at the center, eventually admitted he took the money from an unlocked drawer after the annual street party.

Hines returned just under 40 thousand dollars to police at the time of his arrest.

Initially, Strut officials said as much as 88 thousand dollars was taken.

But Wilson says that estimate was flawed from the start, because the figure was based on wristband sales.  Strut officials still can't quantify exactly how many wristbands were sold.

"What we have, what was returned to us pretty much was what we we're looking at in terms of money and that there is no big pot of money out there missing," said Wilson of the conflicting initial figures.

But the audit still can't account for a 20 thousand dollar gap in reported income.

Wilson says that may be due to some of last year's wristbands which were co-mingled with this year's batch, making absolute sales figures far less than certain.

"The board will review staff training, job responsibilities and make recommendations aimed at making better accountability and transparency ," said Wilson.

Among the possible improvements listed in the audit conclude: clear accountability, annual training and tighter control over wristbands, better procedures to track funds received, disbursements and deposits. Improved safety and security, including limiting key access, functioning security system and a working safe.

Wilson says changes in management at the BSCC are possible in the future.

Bill Speek, attorney for Torrey Hines, said Thursday he's not at all surprised by the findings of the audit, which could diminish the criminal charges Hines may ultimately face.

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