Audit: TN taxpayers gouged through weatherization program

Audit: TN taxpayers gouged through weatherization program

The folks at the Tennessee Housing Development Agency take a lot of taxpayer money from the Feds for a weatherization program.

A new audit says that money gets wasted on projects that don’t even meet government standards.

And that means government contractors must do the work all over again — at taxpayer expense.

THDA officials take federal taxpayer money to conserve energy costs in low-income households through what’s called a Weatherization Assistance Program.

The U.S. Department of Energy funds the weatherization program and gives it to THDA officials to spend around Tennessee.

Photo courtesy of Facebook

“THDA has implemented monitoring procedures for the Weatherization Assistance Program, yet completed projects often fail to meet technical standards,” Tennessee Comptrollers wrote in their audit.

OF INTEREST — TN nursing home wasted Medicaid dollars, audit says

Auditors said 17 percent of the projects they reviewed had major errors and that 33 percent had health and safety concerns.

“But the large majority (81 percent) required some degree of rework of adjustments to meet inspection standards.”

Comptrollers reported finding substandard air ducts, insulation not secured properly, and ventilation fans not meeting air circulation specs, among other things.

“If rework is required, the contractor must complete the identified corrective action(s) before the work can be considered complete,” the audit went on to say.

“The quality control inspector then reinspects the job and notifies THDA by submitting an invoice for reimbursement.”

This is not the first time auditors have called this program out for waste.

As reported last year, one contractor hired to do this type of work in Fayetteville may have accepted $134,000 he didn’t earn.

In 2010 Tennessee Comptrollers found waste in this program after state officials accepted $99 million in federal stimulus money to serve 6,800 homes.

In those instances, contractors either didn’t follow through on certain procedures or performed work that wasn’t allowed, including work on stairs and ramps, even though that provided no weatherization benefits.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org

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  • Betty Tommaso

    My co-op water dept (Cookeville Boatdock Water Utility District with 28,000 customers sent me a $450 water bill, Dec. 2011. Before I went to the first monthly public meeting in January to determine the cause of the amount of gallons they said I used, I spoke to about thirty fellow customers who had received one month’s water bill of $300, $600 & one for $750.
    Per instructions of the TAUD prior to the January meeting, I gave the district three months payments for the average bills that I received prior to Dec. 2011 (a check for $125 to the office personnel) prior to the January meeting to ensure my water would not be turned off until I could discuss the problem at the first available public monthly meeting.
    Myself and several other customers were at the meeting where a local attorney, Shawn Fry, conducted the meeting while the three water district commissioners sat silent.
    I was told they would inspect my meter and determine the cause of the large amount of gallons to support the $450 water bil.
    Prior to the Feb. 2012 meeting, no one came from the water district to inspect the meter. Myself and many more customers planned to attend the Feb. 2012 meeting to again discuss a solution. The office manager was present at the Feb. meeting where I was told the district never received my check for $125 and my meter would be shut off for nonpayment.
    At the Feb. meeting myself and other customers learned that the front door to the building had been locked prior to the end of the day while myself and other customers attended the Feb. meeting which was again conducted by a local attorney who said our meters would be checked prior to the March meeting. While in the meetings many other customers attempted to enter the building to attend the meeting but could not get into the building since the main door was locked. The bell for the drive through window rang over twenty times while myself and other customers met with the management who did not speak along with attorney Shawn Fry who conducted the meeting.
    We were all again told our meters would be checked prior to the March meeting. Prior to the March meeting I received from my bank a copy of my check with the endorsement on the back and confirmation from my bank that was also the water district’s bank confirming that the district had deposited my check into their account two days after they received my check prior to the January meeting.
    At the March meeting the local newspaper attended along with a photographer and reporter and a standing room only in the meeting room and in the hallway and all the reception area. Mr. Fry said he would like for my questions to be answered first when he began the meeting. I had in my hand the copy of the check etc. My photo was on the front page of the local paper the following day.
    During January and Feb. of 2012 I spoke with the TN state open records dept., the comptroller’s office and the TAUD and was informed the district was delinquent with payments for their two million dollar loan they had received from a local bank along with verification of two million dollars for maintenance that was never done received from monies from the state and federal gov.
    The day I spoke to the comptroller’s office for thirty+minutes I left my home to do errands stopping at the gas station across the road from the water dist. office where I was met with three Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies as I went to enter my vehicle after I received my gas and was on my way to get into my vehicle. I was told that the management of the district had called the sheriff’s office and told that I had been at the water district during the time I was on the phone at my home with the comptroller’s office. The deputies arrested me and told I had taken a weapon into the water dept. to threaten the office personnel which was not possible since I was at my home discussing the situation with the comptroller’s office. I was taken to the Putnam County jail where I was booked with a $5,000 bond and required to pay the bail bondsman $500 in cash plus several fees prior to my release. Within twenty minutes after I was allowed to call my husband to come and bail me out of jail, I was told by the jailer I must leave before 4 o’clock.
    At all the court dates for this arrest I refused to make a plea and would not entertain any acceptable results except a withdrawal of the false statements made by the water dist. manager which did occur at my third court appearance.
    In the arrest comments, Mr. Fry told the sheriff’s dept. that I had also been at the water district the day before my arrest making threats to the water office personnel. This was also not possible since my husband and I were at Vanderbilt’s Children’s Hospital where our granddaughter was scheduled for surgery.
    The day after my arrest, the water dept. came to my property and took the water meter and I was told it would not return until I paid the $450 bill, court cost, and other fees amounting to over $1,500 or the meter would not be returned.
    I have two properties in the district one of which is my personal residence and the other is the resident of my son, his wife and four young children. My did not want me to pay the $1,500 until the water district verified that the bill of $450 was not fraudulent.
    This impasse lasted thirty-one days without water in my son’s home. Needless to say this was very difficult for them to remain in the home during the thirty-one days.
    I told my son that this could not continue and we would have to pay the $1,500 since it was less than the cost of installing a well on the property.
    The forty plus fellow customers in the district continued to attend the monthly meeting conducted by Mr. Fry and no effort on the part of the water dept. to inspect the meters. Every customer read their meters and all the bills were never substantiated by the water dept.
    At some point someone from the comptroller’s office sent someone to audit the district and published an audit dated April 6, 2016 with recommendations to the state attorney general and the local district attorney to remove the three commissioners and pursue criminal charges against the three commissioners.
    To my knowledge, no charges or attempt has been made to require the commissioners to reimburse the customers for the two million dollars that were misused by the commissioners and no verification where those monies went.
    Presently it is my understanding that the water district has over $4 million dollars in outstanding loans to the water district to do the maintenance that never took place in the years of 2011 – 2016.
    The person hired by the district after the audit was published was hired by the district during the month of Oct. or Nov. of 2016.
    At the February 2017 meeting customers were informed that the loss of water was almost 60% and was now at 42% without any new main lines, new meters or other maintenance.
    My husband and I moved to Cookeville, TN, from Long Island, NY in 1988 and immediately began to encounter corruption and misuse of authority by local law enforcement, the courts, the court clerk for the city of Cookeville and Putnam County.
    My family lives in Putnam County where I attended high school and received a business degree at TTU graduating in 1970 moving to Atlanta, GA, for my first job and then to Long Island, NY, where I was hired to do civil investigations by a national company seeking a woman with a business degree as the second female hired by the company in 1972.
    Prior to my marriage to my husband I worked doing civil investigations and frequent attempts of fraud and other crimes ending my career with the company preparing cases for NY Supreme Court, Riverhead, NY.
    I have an accounting background, familiar with audits while working for a CPA, during my last year in high school through my four years at TTU.
    Of course, my job doing investigations on Long Island, NY, prepared me to determine the root of fraud, corruption of many types and successfully prepared cases for trial in Supreme Court, NY.
    While working to prepare cases for trail, I learned that every piece of information that would be used during trials had to backed with all necessary original documents.
    From my observation the root of the deeply rooted corruption at every level is due to the domination and control of one political party.
    In the 2012 county elections, the first Republican sheriff was elected, a county executive who was formally a member of the Democrat party switched parties and won as the first Republican to hold that office along with the first district attorney that was elected. I ran for county trustee as a Republican candidate along with my husband who ran as a Republican candidate for Register of Deeds. With less that $1,000 for our combined campaign we received 30% of the total votes.
    We have received every possible threat, intimidation, attempts by law enforcement, the local courts, elected officials etc. costing us not only thousands and thousands of dollars but extreme harassment at our home while our two young sons were in the home, while conducting business and during personal time with our family.
    We refused to submit to the harassment and threats and disruption of our business activities and family time in our home.
    I have kept all original documents that can substantiate the facts. My husband and I are both professional business individuals with a masters in our field, participated as scout leaders, Sunday school teachers, volunteer as supporters of pro-life and never had situations that we have encountered here in Putnam County.
    Unfortunately our experiences are the same of many other residents who have refused to participate in the corrupt activities that is present in every aspect of this area. Our experiences are not unique.

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