A former administrative assistant in the Gallatin City Recorder's Office stole at least $1,173 in city funds for personal use, according to the Tennessee Comptroller's Office.
Jennifer Morris, 44, was indicted by a grand jury this month on one count of theft over $1,000 and one count of official misconduct after an investigation found she pocketed tax and fine payments as well as money from her cash drawer between June and December of 2016.
Morris concealed her actions in part by manipulating the city's accounting system, according to an investigative report from the comptroller's office dated April 19. In at least one instance, she also removed a page of duplicate receipts from the city's manual receipt book.
"Ms. Morris admitted to Comptroller investigators that she took city funds for her personal use," according to the report. "(She) stated that she took the money because she needed it to pay personal bills and expenses."
The misappropriated funds included $690 in property taxes, $265 in red light camera enforcement fines and $218 in cash drawer change. Because of the nature of the scheme, it is possible additional money could be missing that has not been detected.
City Recorder and Judge Connie Kittrell fired Morris for "gross misconduct" in December, according to a letter obtained through a public records request Wednesday.
The state's investigation also found "significant deficiencies in financial processes" in the Gallatin City Recorder's Office, which included:
- Failure to separate incompatible financial duties related to the collections process
- Failure to provide increased oversight when appropriate to adequately safeguard city cash
- Failure to ensure reports of citations paid for violations detected via the city's automated red light camera were reconciled with the corresponding collection records
- Failure to ensure that all collections were recorded promptly in the accounting system and were remitted timely to the city finance office for deposit within three business days, as required by state law
"The City of Gallatin has taken steps to provide checks and balances within its financial operations; however, weaknesses still exist," Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a statement Wednesday. "The same person responsible for collecting money should not be in charge of preparing and reviewing the summary collection reports at the end of the day."
City officials have indicated to the state that they have corrected or intent to correct the deficiencies, according to the report. To view the investigation's finding online, visit www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/
Morris, who was released on $10,000 bond Tuesday, is scheduled to appear in Sumner County Criminal Court on April 21.