State officials say money intended to help homeless animals was stolen by a former shelter employee.
An investigation by the state comptroller's office found that $51,130 was stolen from the Morristown-Hamblen Humane Society between July 1, 2009 and October 31, 2011.
The former employee allegedly altered receipts to conceal the theft. The employee involved had been responsible for gathering collections, matching collections with receipts and delivering those collections to the bookkeeper for deposit.
Hamblen County officials discovered the discrepancies. The stolen funds should have been used to operate the animal shelter, enforce animal control ordinances and conduct animal cruelty investigations.
During questioning by investigators, the employee admitted to backdating one receipt to "borrow" $120. The employee refused to speak with investigators after being fired.
Investigators also found weaknesses in the humane society's accounting and record-keeping procedures, which made the theft easier to conceal.
"It is very important that there is an appropriate amount of oversight when public funds are being accepted, recorded and spent or deposited," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said. "Putting too many responsibilities in the hands of one individual without that kind of oversight can create situations that are ripe for fraud or abuse. It is very unfortunate in this case that money that could have been used to help stray and abused animals in Hamblen County isn't available for that purpose because of this."
The Comptroller's Division of Investigation has forwarded copies of its report and supporting information to the Office of the District Attorney, Third Judicial District.
To view the report online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/