Retired utility manager made nearly $140,000 in 2012 - WRBL

Retired utility manager made nearly $140,000 in 2012, auditors questioning "unauthorized" bonus

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While it could take months for auditors to complete their investigation into Cross Anchor and Chuckey Utility districts, a Community Watchdog investigation is exposing several questionable expenses.

Cross Anchor Utility District Board President Lloyd Dawson confirms one of the issues auditors are questioning is how much the former manager was paid.

The boards for both utilities placed that woman, Shirley Collins, and three family members on paid administrative leave last month after the utilities' auditor called in state auditors.

Monday night the Cross Anchor board decided to stop paying those employees pending the completion of the audit.

When Collins retired in June of this year, the utilities where she worked for so many years dedicated the board room in her honor for all of her "contributions and dedication."

When board members voted to suspend her pay Monday night in the room bearing her name, the plaque honoring her was no longer on the wall.

Board members won't say much about the ongoing audit involving the utility districts, but Dawson says Collins' pay is among the items under scrutiny.

"That's part of the findings and I'm not at liberty to discuss and really don't know anything about at this time," Dawson said.

The payroll summary for the utilities revealed retired manager Shirley Collins made $139,548.73 in 2012, which included a $28,723.27 bonus and $2,400 for cell phone expenses. Collins managed roughly two dozen employees and managed two districts with about 8,000 customers.

For comparison purposes, Johnson City's city manager makes $134,000 and he manages 832 employees. Johnson City has roughly 42,000 water accounts, a Johnson City spokesperson said.

Back in Greene County, the utilities issued seven paychecks to Collins in December alone, including two $5,875.92 paychecks on the last day of the year.

Chuckey Utility District President John Carter says her bonus was never approved by the board.

WEB EXTRA! Chuckey Utility District Payroll Summary from Jan. to Dec. 2012 (.pdf) 

"People need to know," Carter said about the overall situation at the water office. "I'm just as upset as everybody else."

Accountant Stephanie Wallin and Office Manager Beth Fletcher also said they were not aware of any documentation that shows those additional paychecks were ever authorized.

"Some of the issues were things done that didn't get board approval," Dawson said. "That's what concerns me the most."

Collins may have retired in June, but the utilities' check registers revealed every month since she's continued to receive a more than $7,000 check. A contract signed by Carter and Collins lists her as a Chuckey Utility Board consultant for the next two years. During that time the contract says she will receive the equivalent of her 2011 salary spread out over a two-year period.

Utility customer Bill Gass was already angry about the situation at his utility district, but when we told him of Collins' pay he became furious.

"Maybe I should be raising Cain about my water bill," Gass said. "Maybe it shouldn't be that high."

The more he learned, the more he believed the people in charge of keeping an eye on the utilities dropped the ball.

"It shouldn't have went on," Gass said. "I believe that's the commissioners' jobs to check that, or the auditors. Somebody wasn't doing their job."

Board members say they put too much trust in the managers at the utilities and for that, they are partly to blame.

"I feel part of the fault, yes I do," Dawson said. "We are here for the people and that's what we're going to do. We're going to do things the way they should be done."

Admittedly, Dawson said the board did not have as much control or awareness of the day-to-day operations as it should have. He says those are among the things that are going to change.

"It's a mess, it hurts everyone, it hurts the utility, it hurts us, it hurts the employees," Cross Anchor Utility Board Secretary Lynn Foshee said of the ongoing issues. "I'm hoping to get some closure on it soon."

Despite multiple attempts, we were unable to reach Collins for comment.

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