Audits reveal problems in Chancery Court

(WMC-TV) - The Shelby County Attorney's Office released hundreds of pages of documents Thursday that reveal problems in Chancery Court, despite warning.

According to the report, a lack of oversight is likely what contributed to a $1 million embezzlement scheme now under investigation by the FBI.

Five audits revealed the same problems in Chancery Court.

An investigation by the Shelby County Attorney's office found, "for five of the years summarized (2005-2009), external auditors determined that, quote 'duties are not adequately segregated among officials and employees in the office.'  Further, 'officials and employees responsible for maintaining the accounting records in the office are also involved in receipting and depositing funds, reconciling bank statements, and/or disbursing funds.'"

The report continued, "the audits consistently illustrated 'weaknesses in internal controls that should have been addressed.'"

Chancery Court Clerk Dewun Settle said, "we were looking at recommendations and trying to make changes."

Settle said the investigation he requested is instructive.  He blamed the repeated problems involving lax oversight in Chancery Court on county budget cuts that reduced his staff.

Settle now has 21 employees.

Over the phone, Settle said, "what I'm focused on now is doing the right thing, making sure the integrity is restored.  Everyone wants to see it fixed.  No one more so than me."

When asked if the budget cuts may have been connected to the alleged embezzlement scheme, Settle said money allegedly stolen by bookkeeper Brandon Gunn belonged to the state, not the county, and therefore did not affect their budget.  Gunn resigned in April.

Copyright 2011 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.