Friday, January 9, 2015

Court Clerk looking to give county $1.3 million from 'unknown' account

Mike Hammond
Knox County Criminal Court Clerk Mike Hammond is looking into a plan to transfer some $1.3 million from one of his rarely used office accounts into the county’s general coffers.

Hammond said that upon taking office in early September last year, he discovered what he called an “unknown account” that auditors rarely if ever checked because of its infrequent activity.

He said the account, located at First Tennessee Bank, has roughly $2.6 million in it but there’s no documentation itemizing specifically where the money came from.

He said it was set up at least 50 years ago.

Here’s how it worked:

When someone pays a fine to the Knox County Criminal Court Clerk’s Office, officials are supposed to divvy up the money between a number of entities, like the state or the sheriff’s office.

However, if someone made a partial payment, the money would get deposited, and remain there until the fine was completely paid. Only then would it get distributed.

“They had money going in, but very little going out,” Hammond said.

The office doesn’t have the records detailing how the account got every dollar. Hammond, however, said he believes he could turn half the money in the account over to the county and still have enough to pay off the various entities as people settle their fines.

Hammond said he will hammer out the details in the coming weeks, and would move forward only if the county’s law department and the County Technical Assistance Service sign off on it.

Officials will talk more about the matter during Monday’s audit committee meeting.

In the meantime, Hammond said from now on, his office will forward any partial payments over to the various entities, rather than let the money build up.

The Criminal Court Clerk’s Office is self-sustaining fee office, meaning it collects fines and fees, and keeps enough to pay the office employees and build a small reserve. The remaining funds are supposed to be turned over to the county.

That didn’t always happen under Hammond’s predecessors.

No comments: