Two fuel cards were skimmed when used at a Cheatham County business, the district says. (Photo: Staff)
The annual audit of Cheatham County (fiscal year ending June 30, 202) includes seven audit findings, four of which are related to the Cheatham County School District. Comptroller auditors noted that fuel cards were misused by the school district’s transportation department. These fraudulent charges totaled $59,788.95; however, as of January 14, 2022, the district had been reimbursed $30,015.42 by its fleet card management company. The school department’s failure to have written policies and procedures regarding the use of fuel cards resulted in a net loss of $29,774.
RESPONSE FROM SCHOOL DISTRICT:
The Cheatham County School District uses credit cards for school bus fuel purchases. Two cards were skimmed when used at a Cheatham County business. The thieves then used the card information at other locations in Middle Tennessee. The district was able to catch most of this activity and turned it over to law enforcement. The district has additional checks and balances in place to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Auditors also found the Cheatham County director of schools, Dr. Cathy Beck, was paid a $9,000 bonus from federal grant funds. Although the director’s bonus met federal documentation requirements, the bonus was not formally approved by the Cheatham County School Board and resulted in her income exceeding her employment contract amount.
RESPONSE FROM SCHOOL DISTRICT:
The Cheatham County School District, along with the Dickson County and Hickman County school districts, created a consortium to provide oversight of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) guidelines through an ESSER planning grant, which is provided by the Tennessee Department of Education. At the time, the TDOE heralded this consortium as an innovative model for rural school districts. The grant provides stipends for all team members for after-hours work. The stipend for Director of Schools Dr. Cathy Beck is for work, travel, and food-related expenses for her after-hours work on the ESSER consortium. This was not a bonus. The School Board was not required to vote on the stipend per the State Comptroller’s Office. The School Board has been made aware of this situation, which was recommended by the State Comptroller’s Office to address the finding. Other findings in the report include a failure to issue prenumbered receipts and separate financial responsibilities within the county’s ambulance service; a failure to perform system backups each day in the Office of Building and Codes, and poor accounting and capital asset management in the school department. The Comptroller’s Office has included recommendations to address each of the seven audit findings in its report, and the county has provided a Corrective Action Plan to address the issues. “For many years our office has recommended that Cheatham County adopt a central system of accounting, budgeting, and purchasing,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “This is a best practice that would centralize the funds administered by the county mayor, road superintendent, and school department under one office. We believe this would significantly improve accountability and the quality of services provided to the citizens of Cheatham County.”