The Tennessee State Comptroller announced the indictments of two employees from the Town of Mason after a 7-year investigation into the town’s finances.
Michele Scott, the town’s former human resources director, and Reva Marshall, the former financial officer, were being paid for working at both Memphis-Shelby County School System and the Town of Mason during the same hours.
According to the investigative report, Scott was paid $40,622.68 in wages and benefits from the town. Scott’s timesheets showed she worked approximately 5,392 hours; however, she received compensation for 7,920 hours.
She was classified as a full-time employee who worked remotely without supervision. The board discussion decreasing her salary twice during her employment because they did not believe she was working the number of hours she claimed.
Marshall received at least $80,421.89 in improper wages, benefits, and reimbursements from the Town of Mason, the comptroller’s office said. She allegedly submitted timesheets showing approximately 2,908 hours of actual time worked; however, she received compensation for 7,000 hours of work. Marshall processed payroll for Mason’s municipal employees and approved her own timesheets until her resignation in July 2022.
They were indicted in both Tipton and Shelby counties.
In Tipton County, Marshall was indicted on one count of theft over $10,000, one count of theft under $1,000, and one count of official misconduct. In Shelby County, she was indicted on one count of theft over $10,000 and one county of official misconduct.
Scott was terminated on Feb. 16 by Mason Mayor Eddie Noeman, who fired her without notifying other members of the board and later told them the comptroller’s office said cuts needed to be made. In Tipton County, she was indicted on one count of theft over $10,000, one count of theft over $2,500, and one count of official misconduct. In Shelby County, she was indicted on one count of theft over $10,000 and official misconduct.
“The investigative report includes a list of eight significant deficiencies in the town’s government operations that not only led to misappropriation, but have also contributed to the town’s long history of audit findings and financial trouble,” said Comptroller Jason Mumpower. “In particular, town officials have failed to properly oversee payroll, credit card transactions, cell phones, vehicle maintenance, travel, and inventory. The town has also allowed various hired consultants to have too much control over the town’s operations and finances.”
Marshall and Scott are due back in Tipton County Circuit Court on Aug. 16.
Both were hired during Gwendolyn Kilpatrick’s administration, which began in 2015 and ended in 2018. Kilpatrick was also investigated, but was not charged.
Kilpatrick vacationed in Africa on the taxpayers’ dime
The comptroller’s office states Kilpatrick misappropriated at least $8,774.43 from the town for her personal gain, which includes a trip to Africa. In January 2018, while she was the mayor, Kilpatrick traveled to Monrovia, Liberia on a 10-day trip. The Town of Mason paid for her airfare, hotel, visa and passport applications, and immunizations. Kilpatrick attempted to use her town credit card for her hotel stay, however it was declined because a travel notice had not been filed. All expenses over $2,500 must have board approval, however she reimbursed herself without presenting it to the board.
The misappropriations also include trips to New Orleans, where she attended a leadership seminar and was reimbursed for expenses by both the town and the leadership program, and to Staten Island, N.Y. She reportedly told investigators she did remember why she traveled to New York, but she received an advance and per diem pay before traveling and attended the 2018 Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas ball.
Kilpatrick is also said to have used her town-issued credit card to pay for hotel fees in Little Rock and a car rental for 14 days. She was scheduled for a two-day training.
The comptroller’s office said there were 89 other expenses totaling $11,604 which were unsubstantiated. These ranged from hotel stays in Tennessee to the purchase of items at retail stores. There was inadequate documentation explaining these purchases.
She was also reimbursed for expenses she said were related to events and a car accident she told city officials happened while working for the town.
Meanwhile, the town was hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to the water and gas fund.
District attorney general Mark Davidson said Kilpatrick could not be charged because the statutes of limitations had run out.
Comptroller found 333 questionable purchases by the town
The investigation also found 333 “questionable credit card transactions” totaling $45,163. The purchases were related to travel, meals, retailers, services, subscription services, automotive repairs and maintenance, and miscellaneous expenses and were made by other town officials and employees who were issued town credit cards.
The town has a history of inadequate documentation in its accounting, which Marshall and other financial officers were hired to oversee during the Kilpatrick administration, however they did not keep receipts to support the purchases or adhere to purchasing policies. The comptroller’s investigators could not determine if these purchases were exclusively for the benefit of the town.
Mason has six times the number of indicted municipal employees
Scott and Marshall are the latest employees of the embattled town to face charges for theft and misconduct.
In 2009, former clerk Arnita Mitchell was indicted for stealing $96,000 from the town and in 2016 former public works director Chris Trimble was indicted for receiving more than $600,000 in unauthorized overtime.
A year ago the town’s former police chief, Vatisha Barken, and former police officer Samuel Sutton were indicted in both Tipton and Fayette counties with theft over $10,000, one count of official misconduct, and one count of false entry in governmental records. Like Marshall and Scott, they were being paid to work for police departments in two separate counties at the same time.
While other towns and cities in Tipton County’s have had employees indicted for charges ranging from official misconduct to sexual offenses, Mason’s total is up to six times higher than most. Three of Brighton’s elected officials have been indicted in the last 15 years. Three Tipton County employees and Burlison, Covington, Munford and Tipton County Sheriff’s Office have each had one employee indicted.
The small town is the least populated in the county and employs fewer than two dozen people.