SURGOINSVILLE - The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Army will be conducting separate investigations into what happened to a substantial amount of military surplus equipment that the town of Surgoinsville allegedly obtained and is now apparently missing.
Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkeley Bell said Tuesday he has requested that the TBI investigate allegations "that military surplus equipment had been sold or used inappropriately and illegally."
"I'm not at liberty at this point to identify any suspects," Bell told the Times-News. "They've been receiving the equipment up to the present time. I believe that they've received about $750,000 worth of military surplus equipment. The specific types of equipment had not yet been identified, but I understood it was heavy equipment and just general construction equipment.
"I don't really know yet. This investigation only started last week."
Bell also acknowledged that the U.S. Army is coming to Surgoinsville to conduct its own audit of the equipment, which should still be in the town's possession.
Bell said the allegations were brought to him since the new Surgoinsville Board of Mayor and Aldermen administration took office in January.
Surgoinsville Mayor Johnny Greer said Tuesday his staff in City Hall and other various departments are in the process of compiling records for review by the Army and TBI.
Greer said he's aware of several pieces of military equipment still in possession of the town, some of which has been obtained since he took office in January.
Greer noted, however, that when he took office in January there were no complete lists of equipment in town records - be it military surplus acquisitions or otherwise - and complete records or equipment lists have only been compiled since he took office.
That means if there is a substantial amount of Army surplus equipment missing from Surgoinsville, there are no lists or records of it that Greer knows of.
"I guarantee you the Army has a list," Greer said.
Greer told the Times-News Tuesday that shortly after he took office in January some town employees reported to him there was equipment missing.
"I think a couple of things (missing) were Army surplus things," Greer said. "Some of the things we know are missing are a steam cleaner or pressure washer, an air compressor, a small welder and some miscellaneous items like that. I never personally saw those things, but I was told (by town employees) they were there and now they're gone."
Greer added, "This one Army vehicle we had which was like a backhoe - I know all the attachments got stolen off of it. It had a hydraulic saw, a hydraulic jack, and some other attachments, and they were stolen. Of course, we don't know what else, if anything, has come and gone."
Greer said he was also told by town employees that some Army surplus equipment was sold at a town auction late last year.
There are strict guidelines which must be followed before Army surplus equipment acquired by a governmental entity can be sold or disposed of.
For example, the property must be utilized by the governmental agency for at least a year and a half.
After that time period, if the property is worn out or no longer needed, the governmental agency must seek permission from the state to declare the property surplus and seek permission from the state to dispose of the property.
Greer said he is not aware of any records of military surplus property being properly disposed of in Surgoinsville.
Greer added that he welcomes the investigation and that if there has been any wrongdoing he hopes the TBI and Army will get to the bottom of it.