by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
MAURY COUNTY, Tenn. - A newly released audit finds two former Maury County employees stole thousands of taxpayer dollars while on the job. Most of that money will never be returned.
Anyone who owns a car in Maury County has probably been to the clerk's office. It's where you get car titles registered and license plates renewed. For two years, more than 100 of those cash transactions were received but never processed.
"The former deputy clerk kept the proceeds - kept the cash," said Kevin Huffman, Investigative Auditor for the Tennessee Comptroller.
The Tennessee Comptroller's Office also found that same deputy clerk forged signatures on documents for cars that were being bought and sold.
"She would come in, take the documentation, request a duplicate title, put a lower sales price on the transaction - which would reduce the fees and costs and taxes and she would pocket the difference," Huffman said.
In all, she took $10,070.14. Before being caught she had returned $3,205.42 on her own, still leaving the office with a $6,864.72 deficit. The deputy clerk confessed to taking the money. A few months later she died.
The audit also revealed that current County Clerk Nancy Thompson may not have known about the theft, but knew there were some improprieties in April 2012 and didn't report them until July 2012. Thompson did not want to speak on camera but said the office is trying to do a better job of monitoring the work of employees. She's not running for re-election.
Across the street, another clerk was doing something similar.
"The individual in the Circuit Court, General Sessions Court receipted transactions, then deleted those transactions and kept approximately $2,000 for personal use," Huffman said.
"It's taxpayer money which is important that we address (this)," County Commissioner Sonny Shackelford said.
He's part of a newly formed audit committee, made up of three Commissioners and two citizens. For two years he's stressed the importance of having a committee that will help the county government be more transparent.
"In a lot of cases you can improve your management practices so that maybe these things don't occur," Shackelford said.
Investigators say the changes must include better checks and balances, so it's not so easy for someone to steal and go unnoticed.
The District Attorney has the report and will determine if formal charges will be filed.