In 2012: $139,549
-- Her Pay Since
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
An elaborate, $7,700 retirement party, hefty bonuses, phone allowances and a missing nepotism policy are among items under review at the Chuckey and Cross Anchor Utility Districts.
The two districts operate out of the same building, sharing employees and equipment.
For nearly 30 years, Shirley Collins managed both districts.
In April, she retired, and her daughter, Kandie Jennings, became acting general manager.
Jennings, her husband, Bill, and Collins' husband, Willie, have all worked at the districts for more than a decade, according to a long-time employee.
Minutes listed Bill Jennings as purchasing agent and Willie Collins as inspector.
Earlier this year, local certified public accountant Mickey Ellis found some "questionable practices by the management" that prompted both districts to put the four employees on leave with pay.
However, Ellis' audit is still ongoing, and an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury could take months to complete.
On Monday, the Cross Anchor Utility District Board of Directors voted to stop that pay in light of what may prove to be a lengthy investigation, President Lloyd Dawson said.
The Chuckey Utility District Board of Directors followed suit during a board meeting on Wednesday.
The districts' financial records show that Shirley Collins' pay came from the Chuckey Utility District.
Chuckey President John Carter said that Chuckey has more customers and therefore pays about 53 percent of the operating costs, including the general manager's salary.
A payroll summary from January through December 2012 totals Collins' net pay at $139,549. That includes a $28,723 bonus and a $2,400 telephone allowance, items Carter said the board never authorized.
Collins' 2013 payroll summary totals her net pay at $27,500. She retired in April, and has since been paid as an "independent contractor" off the payroll, according to bookkeeper Stephanie Wallin.
Beginning on April 26, Collins has received a monthly check of more than $7,000 in this new capacity. The latest check was for $7,528, on Oct. 28.
Her total pay since retirement is nearly $52,700, making her total pay so far this year from the districts $80,200.
Carter said the contract setting up these payments is under question. He said the Chuckey board only authorized to pay for Collins' insurance.
The 2011 payroll summaries were not available because Wallin was not an employee of the districts in 2011 and therefore does not have those records on her computer.
She said auditors have advised that employees should not access computers that are not their own.
Shirley Collins' husband, Willie Collins, received his pay from Cross Anchor.
His 2012 gross pay totaled $10,800 from the district and another $6,371 from the so-called force account, which is shared by the two districts.
This account allows the districts to share employees and equipment for major projects, rather than bidding out the work.
Chuckey board member Harry Kyker called for a formal cost analysis and review of this account on Monday. Employees estimated that such an analysis should be available by the December meeting.
So far in 2013, Willie Collins has received $11,360 from Cross Anchor and another $31,438 from the force account.
KANDIE JENNINGS, BILL JENNINGS
Financial records indicate that Kandie Jennings has received $74,871 from the district so far this year. This includes a $3,600 telephone allowance and a $2,640 bonus.
In 2012, Jennings received $85,772 in gross pay, including a $3,000 telephone allowance and a $6,400 bonus. Prior to becoming general manager, Jennings was a compliance manager, Wallin said.
Her husband, Bill Jennings, has so far in 2013 received $39,564 from the force account, including a $1,800 telephone allowance.
He received $46,316 in 2012 from that account, including a $2,880 telephone allowance, in 2012.
NO CHRISTMAS PARTY
Carter said during Monday's meeting that the board will address telephone allowances in January, setting new monthly maximums that he said he would like to see be about $35.
The board delayed addressing complaints from some employees that not all employees received raises this year. Carter said that this could not be addressed until the close of the audit.
The board members also canceled this year's Christmas party and maintained the "use it or lose it" vacation policy, despite some employee complaints that certain employees had been being paid for their unused vacation time.
Although the issue was not addressed during the meeting, one item that Carter said is weighing on both districts' boards is a nearly $7,700 retirement party for Collins paid for by the districts.
The party took place in June at the Collins' home. Carter noted that many, if not all, of the board members were present.
However, Carter said that Chuckey never authorized the retirement party or any expenditure for it.
"We were under the impression that she and her daughter were furnishing it, but we found out about a month ago that the [utility district] furnished it," he said.
Financial records indicate that more than $1,900 was spent for the retirement party from Chuckey's account.
Cross Anchor paid about $5,750 toward the retirement party.
At least one other member of the Collins and Jennings family remains employed at the County Water Office, according to Carter.
Under question on Wednesday was an employee handbook from 2012 that deletes the districts' nepotism policy. Board members say they do not recall a 2012 handbook.
The last handbook they recalled was from 2007 and included the nepotism policy, which did not allow for the utility to hire as regular or part-time employment a relative of a current employee.
The policy did not apply to existing employees.
"It [the 2012 employee handbook] was never approved by none of us," Carter said during the meeting. "I don't even want to see the new one."
"Probably the most significant [difference] between the two is, the 2012 removes the nepotism policy," the districts' attorney, Ed Kershaw, said.
"The 2007 has a clear nepotism policy. I find it hard to believe that you all would have approved a handbook that removed a nepotism policy and don't even remember discussing it," Kershaw said.