The Mountain Press ■ Sevier County’s Daily Newspaper ■ Vol. 26, No. 313 ■ November 9, 2010 ■ www.themountainpress.com ■ 75 Cents Tuesday Keener admits taking $92,000 INSIDE Audit: Clerk staff should have recognized money was missing By DEREK HODGES Staff Writer 5Postseason awards Norwood is Region coach of the year; players honored Sports, Page A8 Former County Clerk Joe Keener admitted he took more than $92,000 in cash from bank deposits and converted it to personal use, and confirmed he repaid the money before leaving the job Aug. 30, state auditors who investigated the office in late August said in their report released Monday. T h e audit also holds other clerk’s office staff members accountKeener able for not recognizing Keener was taking cash from the bank deposits, though it does not name specific employees. That criticism comes despite defense of the current staff by county officials and denials from Interim County Clerk Karen Cotter that anyone else could have known about the thefts. The officials from the comptroller’s office were initially alarmed to find a $241,600 discrepancy between what the office Winterfest: 5Celebrities in the news took in and what was actually deposited in its bank account. They determined the money went missing on nine consecutive days in the last week of July and first week of August when Keener was in charge of the money at the end of the day. Some of those absent funds were eventually accounted for when Keener produced the non- Sevierville style Former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow working on memoir Page A6 cash parts of the deposits, the report states. “When asked about the collections for the above-noted days, the clerk presented the checks and money orders ($149,289.09) for our count; however, the clerk could not produce the cash from those collections ($92,334.29),” the invesSee keener, Page A5 State report fairly clean Only 3 minor problems found Local Honoring the fallen By DEREK HODGES Staff Writer Sevier County’s Vietnam war casualties to be recognized With the obvious exception of some findings in the county clerk’s office, the county received a fairly clean bill of health Monday from the folks who oversee its financial situation. The report released by the county audit division of the Tennessee comptroller’s office showed a total of only three findings in two Sevier County departments, with none of those rising to the level of actually posing a problem. “The state defined their findings as ‘unqualified,’” County Mayor Larry Waters said of the financial review. “This means the findings are given without reservations, the state feels all accounting rules were followed and the financial statements accurately represent the financial condition of the county.” Waters’ office is one of those where there were findings in the report though, as he points out, none of the information indicates wrongdoing or mishandled money. In the first of those, the auditors found that there was a special revenue fund that was not properly included in the county’s Page A14 Weather Today Mostly Sunny High: 70° Tonight Mostly Clear Low: 33° Curt Habraken/The Mountain Press DETAILS, Page A6 Obituaries Pearl Watson, 95 Roy Blackburn, 78 Alice Breazeale, 81 Nancy Palmer, 71 Clarence Eltzroth, 68 Grant Mayo, 15 Coy Millsaps, 87 Mylisa McElroy, 39 DETAILS, Page A4 Index Local & State . . . . A1-14 Calendar . . . . . . . . . . A2 Money . . . . . . . . . . . . A5 Opinion . . . . . . . . . . . . . A7 Sports . . . . . . . . . . . A8-10 Classifieds . . . . . . A10-12 Advice . . . . . . . . . . . A13 Comics . . . . . . . . . . . . A13 Corrections Today is the deadline to reserve seats for American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Sevier County Friday night program at River Plantation Conference Center. The correct phone number to call for reservations and tickets is 6549280. Phone number was reported incorrectly in a story in Friday’s edition. Above, dancers with the Elizabeth School of Dance kick off the evening’s festivities during the Sevierville Winterfest celebration Monday. Sevierville is the first city to hit the lights with Pigeon Forge’s kickoff today, followed by Gatlinburg’s on Wednesday. At right, Chance Loveday, 6, and his brother Trace, 3, get their picture taken with Santa. See report, Page A5 Special BOMA meeting canceled By JEFF FARRELL Staff Writer SEVIERVILLE —City Administrator Steve Hendrix cited new concerns and delays in completing the details of some documents in canceling a special meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen at the last minute Monday. The meeting, to review changes to the special assessment fees planned for the area around the Events Center, was unusual because the board rarely has special called meetings and because it was set to happen during Winterfest activities. However, Hendrix said he decided to cancel it Monday because attorneys and officials were still reviewing some documents and because of concerns voiced by property owners in the area. Specifically, people who own time-shares and condominiums at the Wilderness Resort and Wyndham properties are concerned about how the individual units could be affected. Commemorative ornament “I canceled the meeting (Monday) to see that everyone is properly informed and has a full understanding, and that it’s done according to the state statutes.” — Sevierville City Administrator Steve Hendrix “I canceled the meeting (Monday) to see that everyone is properly informed and has a full understanding, and that it’s done according to the state statutes,” Hendrix said. The special assessment fee is a tool used by developers to pay for infrastructure improvements. It allows them to essentially impose an additional property tax on property they develop, and then to use that assessment to finance special bonds that can be used for adding roads, elecSee boma, Page A4 Submitted The 2010 Gatlinburg Festival of Trees commemorative ornament, which is being offered for the first time. The ornament was created by local artist Tim Weberding in Gatlinburg. For more information concerning the Festival of Trees, contact the Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries office at 908-3153 or visit www.smarm.org or www.gatlinburgfestivaloftrees.com.