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80 Years Ago

Archives 06-25-2003






Dishman pleads to county embezzlement
Ballard pleads in Criminal Court to raping child
Planning Commission meeting held Monday


Dishman pleads to county embezzlement

By ROBERT FORSMAN, OCN court reporter

Sheri Dishman, 30, pled guilty in Criminal Court last week to stealing more than $10,000 in county funds.

According to the grand jury indictment of Dishman, between December 1998 and May 2002 she "did unlawfully and intentionally or knowingly obtain or exercise control over property, to-wit: money of the value over $10,000, belonging to Overton County, Tennessee, with the intent to deprive the owner thereof and without the owner's effective consent."

Dishman worked in the Overton County Executive's Office. Her duties included Solid-Waste billing. Dishman resigned during the Richard M. "Ossie" Mitchell administration.

According to a written statement, "Immediately upon discovery of the cash shortage in the Solid Waste program, the budget director notified the Division of County Audit. The county executive gave the employee the option to resign or be fired, and contacted the attorney general."

Assistant District Attorney Owen Burnett arranged a TBI investigation and an audit of transactions related to the case.

According to the audit, "The Solid/Waste Sanitation Fund had a cash shortage of $10,610.25 on June 30, 2002. This cash shortage resulted from tipping fees ($6,776.30) and sales of recyclable materials ($3,833.95) not being deposited with the county trustee or otherwise accounted for in any manner.

"Our original examination was scheduled to cover transactions for the year ended June 30, 2002; however, because of the cash shortage, we extended our examination to include transactions dating back to July 1, 1998."

The report goes on to say, "Our examination revealed that computer records had been manipulated in several instances so that certain solid waste cash collections would not be reflected. "Because of the lack of internal controls and documentation, we are unable to determine the full extent of the missing cash collections."

Internal control weaknesses were cited in the report as allowing the cash shortage to occur and to go undetected for several years. The said weaknesses noted were:

"A. Employees duties were not segregated. One employee collected funds, issued receipts, posted accounting records, and deposited funds with the county trustee. These duties were performed without effective monitoring or review by supervisory personnel.

"B. The solid waste disposal accounts receivable records maintained in the office included an account labeled "Dummy Account" that was used to account for scale tickets for new charge customers until a charge account was entered into the system. Once a new account was established, the information was to be transferred to the new account; however this account had an unidentifiable balance of $4,825 at June 30, 2002.

"C. The county contracted with a local trash collection service to collect trash from county buildings for $425 per month. The county then allowed this trash collection to reduce the amount it owed the county by $425 per month for its use of the county's transfer station. Consequently, county revenues and expenditures were understated. These revenues and expenditures have been properly reflected in the financial statements of this report.

"D. Funds collected in the County Executive's Office were not deposited to the county trustee within three days, as required by Section 5-8-207, Tennessee Code Annotated. Furthermore, collections were not deposited intact with the trustee. During our examination, we noted some collections that were held in the County Executive's Office for almost four months before being deposited with the county trustee.

"E. Collections of the County Executive's Office were not reconciled with deposits made with the county trustee. Reconciling collections with deposits is an effective internal control procedure to ensure that all collections are properly deposited with the county trustee. In addition to the $10,610 shortage, there were several miscellaneous receipts that could not be traced to the Trustee's Office. However, because of haphazard deposit methods, we could not determine the disposition of those funds."

A written response by the county executive and the director of accounts and budgets stated, "The County Executive's Office has taken steps to segregate some of the duties involving collecting, depositing, and posting. Steps are also being taken to identify amounts in the dummy account.

"The $425 per month for garbage collection at county buildings is now paid monthly from the General Fund. The three-day deposit law is being strictly enforced with all solid waste program employees. Records are reconciled monthly at the transfer station and the County Executive's Office, and deposits with the trustee are made in a timely manner."

Dishman was out of jail on a $10,000 bond at the time of her plea, which occurred at Clay County Courthouse because of a scheduling change in Overton County Criminal Court.

Judge Leon Burns presided over Dishman's hearing. Attorney Kay Doyle represented Dishman. Assistant District Attorney Owen Burnett prosecuted the case.

Dishman was granted Judicial Diversion and placed on supervised probation for 6 years. She was ordered to pay court costs and $22,613.02 restitution. A cashier's check for that amount was issued by the defendant and delivered to Overton County Executive's Office following the plea.

ADA Burnett said, "If restitution was not immediate, the District Attorney's office would not accept this plea."

Attorney Doyle said restitution included the cost of the audit to determine the amount stolen.

According to a document signed by nine Overton County Commissioners, special conditions apply to Dishman's probation:

1. Total restitution of $22,613.02.

2. Shall not possess or consume any beverage containing alcohol.

3. Shall not possess or consume any non-prescription drugs.

4. Shall not be present at any bar or tavern.

5. Shall perform 200 hours community service.

6. Shall obey a curfew to be set by her probation officer which accommodates her work and school hours.

7. Part-time student status will require a minimum of part-time employment.

8. Should the defendant comply with all the foregoing special conditions and standard conditions of probation, the defendant may apply to the court for termination or modification of the diversion with the approval of the District Attorney.

Judge Burns told Dishman, "You may or may not have a criminal record. If probation is completed successfully, your case will be subject to diversion and expungement. If you violate probation, the conviction could go on your record."

Judge Burns told Dishman a conviction for the offense she pled guilty to carries a possible three to six year prison sentence that she would be subject to if she violates probation.

Judge Burns asked if Dishman understood what pleading guilty meant. Dishman said she did.

"To this charge occurring between December 1998 and May 2002, how do you plead?" asked Judge Burns.

"Guilty," Dishman said.




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Ballard pleads in Criminal Court to raping child

By ROBERT FORSMAN, OCN court reporter

An Overton County man, charged with raping a child under the age of 13 on separate occasions, entered a guilty plea in Overton County Criminal Court Monday, June 23, Judge Leon Burns presiding.

Jerry W. Ballard, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of rape of a child. Ballard was charged with five counts of the offense. Three charges were dismissed.

Public Defender Art Johnson represented Ballard. Assistant District Attorney Owen Burnett prosecuted the case.

According to testimony, the offenses occurred between August 31, 2001, and January 26, 2002. On that last date a witness reported seeing Ballard engaging in sexual intercourse with the minor. Authorities were notified and Ballard was arrested January 27, 2002.

Ballard has been incarcerated in Overton County Jail since being arrested. He admitted committing the offenses in a signed statement at the time of his arrest, according to testimony.

Ballard was sentenced to 18 years in prison to be served at 100 percent.

Judge Burns said, "What we are agreeing on today is 100 percent to be served day for day with no credit for any kind of early release. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Ballard said.

"You will be on the sexual offenders list for the rest of your life," Judge Burns said. "You will be on community supervision as necessary to protect the public from sexual offenders. You will be on community supervision for the rest of your life. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," Ballard said.

A sample of Ballard's blood will be taken to provide a permanent DNA identification for the sexual offender's list.

"Are you guilty or not guilty?" asked Judge Burns.

"Guilty," Ballard said.

At last report, Ballard was in Overton County Jail awaiting transport to a Department of Corrections prison. Time spent in jail will be applied to his prison sentence.



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Planning Commission meeting held Monday


Livingston Planning Commission held the regular monthly meeting Monday, June 23.

After Mayor Hosea Winningham presented an overview and update of the recent annexation plans put into motion, Alderman Curtis Hayes spoke to the Commission encouraging the annexation of the area behind the Hutchinson factory at west end of the town.

Alderman Hayes went on to say, "If you went behind Pennington's there behind Potter's, if you took that road straight across, you'd be crossing 111, then you'd take it up by the sewer plant, and end up right there on the Hilham Highway. That'd be a good area there, a lot of residents there."

Planning Commission Chairman Harold Fletcher responded, "But there's even more residents on down south.

He went on to say, "East McCormick Road is our boundary, right now.

But added, "We're working on extending the boundary on south a little further. We've got somebody in the state that's working on that."

No annexation action was made during the meeting.

The annual performance report was approved.

Darius Sims, building inspector for the Town of Livingston, notified the Commission that the existing sign ordinance might be unenforceable as written because it does not define what is meant by a "premise".

Sims said, "I think we need to identify exactly what a premise is. Is it one lot, one building, one owner, or whatever?"

The Commission will look at ordinances from other cities at a future meeting to try to determine new language for the ordinance.

The Commission further considered Avis McDonald's plan to create a homeless shelter in Livingston.

Commission member Budd Bishop said to McDonald, "I think we'd like to see the charter language written by your lawyer-advisor, the charter language of the organization, like to see an application for the 501C status. That may not be something you can get right away, but we would like to see the application.

"But, I think you're almost there in all these things, but I think that's what you need to do. And we need to have all the documents in one place, and they need to be in order.

"I think you're much closer than you have been, he said. "I think you've gone through a lot of the steps that you need to do."

After more discussion, Bishop said to McDonald, "But I think you really have to move to that next stage, which is very formal documents stating exactly what your organization plans to do, who the clients will be, what the type of services you are offering will be, and what their duration will be, and your application for 501C.

"Your tax exempt status, that's critical, because when you get that tax exempt status, you have to conform to what it says in order to qualify for gifts. I know you are expecting donations. You'll have to have that or the donations won't count.

"So, until you go through all those steps, you're not going to be able to go forward anyway."

The meeting adjourned.



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