Fleet Services audit describes disregard for taxpayer dollars

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - The City of Memphis' preliminary report of Fleet Services under the previous administration describes an environment of nepotism, favoritism and blatant disregard of taxpayers' hard-earned money.

An internal audit of Memphis City's Fleet Services reveals an air of unaccountability led to a complete breakdown of the city's auto repair program.

Memphis City Chief Administrative Officer George Little said most of the unit's troubles centered on city contractor Around Town Tire and Trucking.

"We felt that we needed to focus on Around Town Tire separate and apart of the initial audit," said Little.  "What isn't accounted for, we'll find it or we'll hold somebody accountable for it."

The preliminary audit revealed a core group of city employees knew Around Town was violating the city contract, but no one reported it.

Around Town claimed to be operating out of a vacant lot on Brooks Road, but the audit shows the private company actually worked on city property inside Fleet Services, which is not allowed.

Master Mechanic Arthur Adams, now retired after being charged with DUI in a city vehicle, told city auditors that Around Town took over the city's auto shop every day at 3 p.m.

Adams said the private business used city tools, equipment, tires and rims on taxpayers' dime.  The audit showed many of Around Town's workers were city employees who worked for Fleet Services.

Many of the unit's supervisors had no training or background in auto repair.  For example, the compliance officer had a background in property management.

"It's management's responsibility, I believe in any job, to adequately train their employees for the duties that they have," said Little.

The city said Around Town also had no garage insurance, putting taxpayer money at risk if there was an accident.  

Around Town did not turn over all the documents the city requested for the investigation.  What they did turn over was inaccurate, incomplete or both.

City auditors said tires Around Town returned to the city for recycling were not the same brand as the tires the city purchased and used tires were quickly shredded to avoid accountability.  The city said that allowed for theft.

Little said in the future, there will be separation of duties.

"To ensure that the people who place the orders aren't the same ones who receive the goods and services," said Little.  "When you have that happen, there's a pretty good chance you could have things that shouldn't happen, happen."

Little said the audit is only the first step in cleaning up Fleet Services and restoring public trust.

The report said the Tennessee Department of Commerce is checking into Around Town with questions about significantly underreported income.  

The FBI is also investigating.  The audit said some statements were omitted because they had criminal implications and making those statements public would interfere with the FBI investigation.

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