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Prosecutors Start Probe Of Lincoln County Water Department As Outrage Grows

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PARK CITY, Tenn.(WHNT)-Public outrage continues to grow in Lincoln County, Tennessee as prosecutors begin a criminal probe of the county's water department.

Coffee County, Tennessee Assistant District Attorney Marla Holloway told WHNT News 19 that she has started an investigation that will determine if water department employees and board members broke the law. It all stems from a financial scandal at the Lincoln County Board of Public Utilities which led to a state audit. The Tennessee Comptroller's office released the audit on Monday, with the results stunning many county officials.

The embarrassing report revealed that roughly $300,000 worth of unauthorized bonuses were handed out for a variety of tasks that ranged from showing up to work on time to celebrating Easter and spying on co-workers in an assignment labeled "adultery watch." The audit also revealed that three water department board members who oversaw the tumultous period and are still on the job  were overpaid by close to $12,000 just for showing up to regularly scheduled meetings. The board members also allegedly received improper discounts on monthly bills. All of it happened in a period when customer rates were raised multiple times.

"There's no way of them [board members] righting this wrong and them staying in their jobs," said water department customer Jennie Keith. "To find out they're just throwing the money away, that's not right."

"It's ridiculous, it really is," added customer April Crowell. "I would say they ought to be ashamed of themselves because that money could have been used elsewhere in the community."

Lincoln County District Attorney Robert Carter recused himself from the case due to the fact that one of his relatives works for LCBPU. Holloway said the investigation was underway, and would leave no stone unturned.

"We're going to give this case the seriousness it deserves and have a real hard good look at it," said Holloway. "We're in the very early stages right now. If something should come about then I'm sure when the time is right everyone will hear about it."

Board President Larry Craig declined to talk on camera earlier in the week, but told WHNT News 19 he would not resign. Board members Wade Williams and Hugh Moffett also declined to comment, and also stated that they would not resign.

The Comptroller’s office audit also detailed incidents of equipment that was stolen and illegal shredding of documents by LCPBU employees. Movie tickets, extended hotel stays, and unauthorized airline tickets were all on the list of questionable charges on one department credit card that racked up more than $10,000 worth of expenses.