Comptroller: Domestic violence group falsified time reports
The state’s largest domestic violence organization falsified employee time sheets and kept poor records, resulting in more than a half million dollars in questionable salary spending, according to an investigation by the Tennessee comptroller.
The Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence disputes the findings, noting the costs questioned by investigators applied to work completed on time and under budget.
But the nonprofit’s executive director, Kathy Walsh, acknowledged some “deficiencies” in internal oversight. The organization has purchased timekeeping software and hired a new finance and administration director to better track employee record-keeping, her written response to the comptroller investigation said.
“The coalition acknowledges that the auditors have brought to our attention, weaknesses in procedures that we have already begun to aggressively address,” said Walsh in a written response included in the investigative report.
The comptroller investigation, released Tuesday, found time records for employees were falsified or didn’t accurately reflect time spent working on projects funded by state or federal grants. As a result of those faulty records, the investigation questioned salaries totaling $515,902 in grant funds.
The investigation found a former employee was instructed to falsely indicate she was working on a project funded by a federal grant, even though she did not work on the project.
A former employee received unearned leave and benefits
totaling $13,524 from local, state and federal grants, the investigation found.
Poor record-keeping also led investigators to question $25,945 of Walsh’s salary for days in which they could not determine how much time she spent lobbying the legislature or raising funds — activities that are not allowable under the agency’s grant contracts.
The comptroller’s findings have been reviewed with federal prosecutors in Middle and East Tennessee, and the Davidson County District Attorney’s office. As a matter of policy, the U.S. attorney does not confirm or deny ongoing investigations, spokesman David Boling said. Misuse of federal grant dollars can rise, in some cases, to a criminal offense.
“Documentation is essential for any entity that receives grant money,” said Comptroller Justin Wilson. “Time records should never be falsified with inaccurate information. Local, state and federal agencies must be confident that grant dollars are being spent as intended.”
Walsh, in her written response, disputed the amount questioned by the comptroller and noted allocating salaries for multiple grants is “complicated and complex.”
Walsh said no employee was asked to falsify records, but in one case an employee was asked to revise her time sheet to accurately reflect the time she spent on grant-related activities.
And Walsh said the coalition does not use any state or federal grants to lobby or raise funds.
While auditors who reviewed Walsh’s Outlook calendar found notes reflecting all-day appointments at Legislative Plaza and one-hour meetings with lawmakers, Walsh said the reality was she spent 15 minutes or less in meetings and performed other work duties while at the Legislature.
Walsh noted that it was “of the utmost [importantce] to the coalition … that we adequately convey that the weaknesses uncovered by the audit are just that: weaknesses.”
Reach Anita Wadhwani at email@example.com, 615-2598092 or on Twitter @AnitaWadhwani.