KINGSPORT — Three months ago, Sullivan County District Attorney Barry Staubus asked the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to look into why some people did not receive requested refunds for tickets purchased in advance of a GOP forum and dinner planned for Oct. 15, 2011, in Kingsport.
On Wednesday, TBI spokes- woman Kristin Helm advised the investigation is still ongoing. She said the probe involves “missing money” associated with the canceled event and declined to provide further details.
“I had some complaints by some citizens that didn’t receive their money, and so I’ve asked the TBI to do an investigation,” Staubus said Wednesday. “It’s still under investigation. It’s not complete, and so I don’t want to make any more comments about the nature of it than that. I did make a request to look into the circumstances of that forum.”
Staubus said initially three citizens came forward, and then he received “numerous” phone calls from other Sullivan County residents, as well as a few others in the Davidson County area. All the calls involved complaints that refund requests — some made prior to the event’s cancellation — were not honored, he said.
Staubus said he requested the probe on Sept. 30, 2011, the same day he met with Kay White, a former Democratic congressional candidate and current tea party member who had been selling tickets and organizing volunteers for the event, which was to be staged by Nashville-based Conservatives on the Move (COTM).
On Sept. 26, 2011, White told the Times-News she had collected about $30,000 for the forum and a dinner to follow and deposited the funds into a local bank account, and that she had “six more thousand” in her possession before resigning her role.
“The reason I resigned was I have asked for approximately three weeks for an accountability, and I have been given nothing,” she said at that time.
White said she was “not going to lose any more of the people’s money.”
A phone call to White’s office seeking comment on Wednesday was not immediately returned.
A phone call seeking comment from COTM co-founder and Executive Director Fabian Story Wednesday afternoon rang to a recorded directive for callers seeking refunds. In that message, a male voice states, “As of October 1, 2011, the nonprofit as well as the PAC are no longer in daily operations. If you were inquiring about your refund for the canceled debate and dinner, you may leave your name, number and a brief message, and we will call you back as soon as possible. Please note that after Oct. 15, 2011, no further refund requests will be accepted.”
Web sites for the COTM nonprofit and PAC are no longer active.