Audit: Former Sneedville Utility District manager stole more than $27K

2:48 PM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
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The former manager of the Sneedville Utility District is accused of stealing more than $27,000 in cash, checks and unauthorized insurance benefits, according to an audit by the state Comptroller's Division of Investigations.

A Hancock County Grand Jury indicted Connie Mitchell on one count of theft over $1,000 last month.

The audit, released Wednesday, found that Mitchell took $7,445 in ratepayer money for her own personal use between July 1, 2010 and September 30, 2011. Over a three-year period, Mitchell also spent nearly $20,000 in district funds to upgrade her insurance coverage without authorization by the district's board of commissioners.

That wasn't all the audit discovered.

Investigators found that several family members of utility district employees and officials were allowed to carry large overdue balances on their accounts without having their utility service cut. In one case, a residential customer accumulated an unpaid balance of nearly $2,000 over a 46-month period.

It was also discovered that Mitchell repeatedly came in late for work, but marked her timesheets to indicate she had worked full days. She also used district funds to purchase a cell phone that had no apparent business purpose. The district's board of commissioners had no written policy on cell phone use by employees.

The district was also delinquent in paying federal withholding tax to the United States Treasury and state sales tax to the Tennessee Department of Revenue.

"Abuses of ratepayer money should not and cannot be tolerated," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. "It is worth noting that Ms. Mitchell's actions were more difficult to detect because Ms. Mitchell had complete access and control over those transactions."

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