Oaklands Finances under Scrutiny - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Oaklands Finances under Scrutiny

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Two Oakland, Tennessee aldermen are asking for a state investigation into the town's finances.

They're alleging everything from shoty bookkeeping, to conflict of interest voting and they're making some serious allegations against the mayor. The alderman who filed a 10 item complaint with the state, are accusing the mayor of illegal hiring and misusing a city vehicle, among other things.

The mayor says, their claims are a joke.

But since the complaint was filed, the town recorder has been suspended and the town financial consultant announced his resignation.

“We are not making an accusation there has been corruption, we're making an accusation on how are we supposed to know what finances are when the books are not properly maintained?” said alderman Maggie Powers.

Alderman Maggie Powers and John Evans filed a complaint earlier this month, asking for the state comptroller's office to conduct an investigation into the town's finances. Among the 10 complaints, the two aldermen say the city bank accounts have not been maintained since March of 2010.

“We didn't know if the numbers connect or not. We could be looking at complete fiction that's why we asked the state for an audit,” said Powers.

One piece of paperwork shows $11,000 being credited to the city, and then debited the same day. The amount doesn't show back up in the books for three months.

“And the money comes back in, so where was it?” said Evans.

Another complaint is that the mayor illegally hired a financial consultant. They say the consultant's contract proves it.

“Item 10 in the contract says this agreement has been approved by the board and mayor. (Reporter) Had it been? (Powers) No.”

31-year old Scott Ferguson was sworn in as mayor in April. He admits one of the town’s accounts is not reconciled, but he says he inherited the record keeping. He says he's not surprised by the aldermen's complaint, but says it has no basis.

“Not surprised. there's been a lot of political tension here over the past several years,” said Ferguson.

Since the aldermen's complaint, the mayor suspended the town recorder without pay, pending an investigation into the town finances. He would not elaborate further.

“If he's taking these kinds of steps then there's something to the fact the numbers aren't adding up,” said Evans.

In the complaint, the alderman goes on to accuse the mayor of conflict of interest voting. In January, the mayor cast the tie-breaking vote on a measure that resulted in him, getting a new city vehicle.

“(Reporter) But you essentially got a vehicle because of your vote, don’t see that as a conflict? No, we checked with the state attorney, M-task and town attorney to ensure no conflict,” said Ferguson.

The aldermen also takes issue with the mayor using the city vehicle to drive to his second job, as a pastor, 70 miles away.

“I do use the vehicle occasionally. (Reporter) For personal use? Yes. I'm required to fill out 1099 which we've done,” said Ferguson.

“When you see the mayor using city property and using city funds to support his 2nd income, come one, we just cut the kids, we cut the seniors,” said Evans.

“At the board meeting Thursday it's going to be apparent how financially responsible we are,” said Ferguson.

The mayor says he plans to present a new budget Thursday which will take the town from being a projected $300,000 in the hole, to $158,000 in the black.

“Our books open, anyone can see them at any time, we run on a policy of honesty and transparency here in the city of Oakland,” said Ferguson.

The mayor says his financial consultant resigned because he wanted to work part-time and now the mayor wants a full-time finance director, but has not hired one.

The comptroller's office is not commenting on if they'll audit the town's finances.

FOX13 will continue to follow the story and bring you the latest as it develops.

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