By Angie A. Gambill
The annual state financial report for Johnson County for the year that ended June 30, 2017 came out last month.
According to that report, the Johnson County Office of Director of Schools was found to have “deficiencies in a contract for commercial driver’s license testing.” The findings are referring to a long-standing contract with the Department of Safety and Homeland Security to provide commercial driver’s license testing in Johnson County.
The report states that the fees charged for this service were not remitted to the county and run through proper channels but were retained by the examiner. Johnson County Director of Schools Dr. Mischelle Simcox responded that the testing was not performed during work hours and did not necessitate being on the county or school payroll records. Schools transportation director Barry Bishop administered the majority of the CDL testing and echoed Simcox’s comments.
Simcox and Bishop also rejected claims in the report that estimated the fees collected at slightly more than $60,000 for more than 800 tests given during the period from January 1, 2015 to May 19, 2016. Stating the terms of the contract, auditors calculated $75 for each test administered to reach that figure. In addition, they cited a figure of $50 for use of school equipment which could be charged.
Bishop did not have the actual figure available at the time of The Tomahawk’s interview, but was adamant that it was nowhere in the vicinity of $60,000. He said the report did not take into account that there were no charges to school, city or county government employees. The $50 fee for school equipment use was never charged since those not employed by local agencies must use their own cars for testing.
Both officials were surprised that the issue had come up on the audit as the contract has been in place since 2003. Dr. Simcox is the third director of schools in Johnson County since the inception of this contract and practice.
The school director and the board maintain their support of Bishop and the other employee that administered a lesser portion of the tests.
“We fully support our two employees that perform the CDL testing, which is a service that has been provided since 2003. This is a benefit not only to our school system but to our county and surrounding counties. They are able to provide CDL testing at no charge to school employees, county government employees, city government employees and the TN Department of Correction,” Simcox said on behalf of the board in a statement on Friday. “They do this at a minimal charge for anyone else seeking a CDL endorsement that might improve their employment opportunities. Without this service provided close to home, individuals would have to travel to Knoxville and the cost would be much more expensive. Our employees do the testing on their own time and not during work hours and this has not cost our county or city tax payers any additional money, in fact it saves the tax payers money by giving these tests for free. Individuals who do not work for us or our local agencies must provide their own vehicle to be tested in. In light of the recent audit finding, we are meeting with a state auditor to ensure that this type of miscommunication does not happen in the future.”
A couple minor violations were noted for the Office of Circuit and General Sessions Courts Clerk that were responded to by Circuit Court Clerk Melissa Hollaway. According to the report, the first item found in noncompliance was a cash shortage of $298.50 that showed up as a difference in receipts and bank deposits. Another finding in the audit was that funds were not deposited within three days of collection and bank statements not accurately reconciled with the general ledger in a timely manner. According to the report, Hollaway liquidated the cash shortage from her personal funds on June 29, 2017 and responded that she is in agreement with the findings and that a new bookkeeper had been hired and additional training conducted. Additional dates were added to the deposit schedule and additional segregation of duties was enacted. Bank statements will now be reconciled on the day the statements are received from the bank.
All other Johnson County offices were found to be in compliance with the audit report.