Finance Director Dismissed!

By Jacob E. Rosenbaum

A stunning series of recent events has led to the dismissal of the County Finance Director. Last Wednesday, June 13, following a budget meeting, a finance committee meeting was held. During the meeting, County Executive J. Michael Cross revealed that his office had been conducting an investigation into raises that had been given to employees of the Fentress County Finance Department in 2015 and 2016.  Mr. Cross’s investigation included opinions from both State Auditors and from Attorney Jeff Jones of Cookeville, as well as additional allegations against the County’s Finance Director, Marsha Delk, which pertained to her authorizing a raise that was requested for two employees of the Solid Waste Department at the request of the Solid Waste Director.

In a previous meeting of the Finance Committee, held  May 17, it was brought to light that the Finance Director had given raises to employees of the Finance Department in 2015 and 2016. These raises were substantial (one employee received over $7,000 in one year, and others received in excess of $1,500 the following year) and were not specifically approved by the Finance Committee or County Commission. However, the amount budgeted for the Finance Department’s payroll was approved during both years by the Finance Committee and County Commission. It was stated by Ms. Delk during the May 17 meeting that she had not broken the law, and was within her authority to set the rate of pay for Finance Department employees so long as the money had been appropriated in the payroll line item. The legality of Ms. Delk’s actions was supported verbally by the county attorney. (For full details see the May, 23 issue of the Fentress Courier.)

Following the May 17 finance meeting, the County Executive’s office opened an investigation into Director Delk’s actions. In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that two employees of  the Solid Waste department had been given a raise at the request of the Solid Waste Director. The report states that Ms. Delk “assisted” in giving these raises to Solid Waste employees even though the raises had not been approved by the Finance Committee. When presented with this allegation, Ms. Delk said she had no recollection of this event. However, Cross’s report included a letter from Solid Waste Director Jackie Selby to Human Resources Director Becky Crockett in which he describes his version of the event, which supports the allegation. It is currently unknown if Director Selby will face any kind of reprimand for his involvement in the events described within the report.

Read the rest of the story in this week’s Fentress Courier.