ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Mayor Jim Lee told the Times News Friday he will ask the county commission to withhold financial contributions from all nonprofit organizations that refuse to hand over their financial information.
That announcement came two days after it was reported that the Hawkins County Fireman’s Association and Church Hill Rescue Squad are the subjects of a Tennessee Comptroller’s investigation into alleged theft on the part of Carla Dykes, who served as treasurer/secretary of both agencies.
Lee said his decision to demand financials from all nonprofits on the county contribution list was influenced by the fact that two other agencies are currently the subject of state comptroller investigations.
Earlier this year, the Times News reported that Lee had requested a state comptroller investigation into Hawkins County Central Dispatch expenditures which took place prior to the dismissal of longtime 911 Director Gay Murrell.
Attorney General Dan Armstrong confirmed for the Times News last week that the comptroller is also investigating allegations of improper spending at the Clinch Valley Volunteer Fire Department during the term of former Chief Steve Seal.
“In light of recent controversial donations from members of the county commission, I have made a decision to request financial information from all recipients of Hawkins County donations,” Lee said Friday. “I requested information from all emergency services, which included fire, EMS and rescue squad three weeks ago. Certified letters were mailed to the other nonprofit organizations yesterday (Thursday).”
The mayor said he wants the financial information “as soon as possible” and will “take it before the county commission and recommend that no contributions are given until they comply.”
Lee noted that Hawkins County taxpayers contribute more $1 million annually to nonprofit organizations.
“While this may not be a popular decision, I feel like it is my duty as the chief financial officer to see that the taxpayers’ money is being used wisely,” Lee added. “An organization that operates efficiently can do more with the same contribution than one that operates inefficiently. We want our donations to count. That’s why it’s important to ask questions whenever we are asked to give and not vote based on personal political reasons. Some feel it is not the proper role of the government to bestow their forcibly taken taxes and in turn gift it to charities.”
Lee said the “recent controversial donations from members of the county commission” he referred to included spending almost all of Gov. Bill Lee’s one-time COVID-19 $1.176 million emergency Local Support Grant (LSG) funding last month “before we received it and not even a committee discussion on how it could best be spent to benefit the whole county.”
He added, “Spending over $1 million on football fields while we have communication problems with the radio system — I’m pro-school and -sports but we as county leaders need to get our priorities right. And yes that was the taxpayers’ money. We are going to continue to have problems with EMS and the fire departments until we fix it.”