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COMPTROLLER: Major mismanagement found within Coffee county Drug Court Foundation. Director speaks with Thunder Radio News

THUNDER RADIO NEWS & PRESS RELEASE

An investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has revealed a series of problems related to the Coffee County Drug Court Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Manchester. The foundation provides drug inpatient and outpatient therapy, testing, and other services.

The investigative report details eight alleged serious findings related to the executive director Mike Lewis’ management of the foundation. Some of these issues place the foundation at risk for penalties, property seizure, refund of grant awards, or other legal action.

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Some of these findings include over $200,000 in IRS penalties for failing to pay payroll taxes and file IRS forms in a timely manner and alleged “questionable discretionary payments” for unused leave and comp time over $155,000. According to the complete comptroller report, $110,573 was paid to Lewis and $44,844 to six other employees.

The comptroller report states that Lewis was considered a “salaried exempt employee” and not eligible to receive compensatory time or overtime payments.

Board members signed all checks for unused leave and comp time payments

Thunder Radio News reached out to Mr. Lewis over the weekend and received the following statement regarding the Comptroller Report:

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“I am embarassed but not ashamed. I did the best I could when funds were slashed, trying to keep things going for our clients. My focus was so much on people that I couldn’t keep the financial plates spinning.

“We have been audited for years and nothing like this has ever showed up,” added Lewis. “Until this report came out, I had no idea about any overpayments or that payment for comp time was not allowed. I only learned Tuesday that a report existed but didn’t get a copy of it until a few hours before it was released.”

Lewis went on to say that he retired from the foundation on Thursday, April 20th, “in hopes that the good work accomplished over the last 18 years can continue in our community.”

The Comptroller’s Office has shared the results of the investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee and the Office of the District Attorney General of the 14th Judicial District. The eight findings are summarized below:

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1.     The Internal Revenue Service assessed the foundation $235,922 in penalties and interest for failing to pay payroll taxes and file IRS forms timely. These problems began prior to 2014.

2.     The executive director improperly expended $224,698 of SBA COVID-19 relief funds on the late payment of payroll taxes.

3.     The executive director made questionable discretionary payments to himself and employees for unused leave and comp time balances totaling $155,417.

4.     The executive director made improper payments to himself and other employees totaling $45,386. The executive director overpaid himself $6,526.

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5.     The executive director submitted the same expenditures totaling $7,684 for reimbursement to at least two different grants.

6.     The foundation received questionable grant funds totaling $17,381.

7.     The executive director submitted incorrect information to the Small Business Administration for COVID-19 funding.

8.     The executive director maintained inaccurate and incomplete financial records.

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“While the executive director’s mismanagement is apparent, the foundation’s board must also share the blame,” said Comptroller Mumpower. “During our investigation, we determined the board has not held any meetings since November 2021. The board also held no meetings in 2020. The board has clearly allowed the executive director to have too much control without the proper oversight of operations and finances.”

To view the investigative report, go to tncot.cc/doireports. To view a map depicting Comptroller investigations, go to tncot.cc/mappinginvestigations.

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