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Comptroller’s Office investigates Safe Haven

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

The Comptroller of the Treasury’s Office has been investigating several nonprofits in the Johnson County area for misuse of funds and related issues. Comptroller Jason Mumpower recently released an investigative report on the Johnson County Safe Haven and its executive director Richard Walsh. Safe Haven is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and support to domestic violence victims in Johnson County. In this case, officials report that Walsh, referred to only in title, seemed to reimburse the organization for all funds used.

Officials focused on two main points of spending in this investigation: misuse of company credit cards and misuse of the company’s cell phone plan. The inquiry spans from July 1, 2016, through May 31, 2020. There are no criminal charges at the time of this article, and it seems unlikely that there will be any.

The investigative report shows the Safe Haven director made personal purchases for himself and two separate, unaffiliated nonprofit organizations using his organization’s credit card. Charges totaled “at least $5,545.” Those charges include spending at Food City in Damascus, Lowe’s Hardware in Boone, and Pandora’s Box LLC, also known as Black Bear Wine and Spirits. Additional purchases totaling approximately $285 lacked proper documentation to prove whether they were for company use.

The company cell phone account is strictly for employee use, and Safe Haven provided its director with a phone strictly for business. Records show that Walsh included several family members and a family friend on the company’s plan, equaling “at least $10,941.” The Comptroller’s Office confirms that those added paid for their portion of the bill via personal checks.

The main points of contention and possible improvement revolve around oversight and documentation. Officials believe these “improper transactions” could have been identified more quickly and corrected by the Board of Directors with closer oversight.

“Management is responsible for designing internal controls to give reasonable assurance of the reliability of financial reporting and of the effectiveness and efficiency of operations,” Comptroller Jason Mumpower explained in his report. “The lack of oversight by the board of directors contributed to their failure to promptly identify the improper transactions.”

On the documentation side, one issue was a signature stamp used by Walsh. Said stamp bore both his and the treasurer’s signatures. Officials report that using this caused “an improper lack of segregation of duties and increased the risk of errors or intentional misappropriation.” Other documents went unsigned by supervisors.

The Safe Haven Board of Directors reports it has seen to the Comptroller Office’s concerns. All concerns have been corrected or are being reviewed now. To view the report personally, visit comptroller.tn.gov.

The Johnson County Safe Haven is a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and support to domestic violence victims in Johnson County. Additional support includes food, clothing, and a 24-hour crisis hotline (423-727-1914). Find out more about this organization at jcsafehaven.org or 423-727-0202.