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County administrator ordered to pay $3K

The state auditor said Lincoln County’s administrator failed to deposit chancery clerk payroll reimbursement checks on time over a three-year period, costing the county more than $1,668 in interest the money could have earned.

David Fields, who has been employed as Lincoln County administrator for nearly 22 years, is ordered by State Auditor Shad White to pay $3,258.80 within 30 days of the July 12 delivery date.

The breakdown of the debt shows $1,668.11 for floating checks/lost interest revenue for late chancery clerk payroll reimbursement checks. It also includes $383.55 interest calculated at 1 percent per month from date of loss and $1,20714 for the cost of recovery, which is based on the hourly cost assessed from each staff member for a total of $3,258.80.

Fields was hand delivered the letter from White’s office July 12. The letter was also copied to FCCI Insurance Group in Sarasota, Florida, and Western Surety Company in Chicago.

The sum represents lost interest revenue from checks written from Feb. 4, 2015, through July 2, 2018, that were not deposited in a timely manner, according to state statute, White said. This sum also represents interest and cost of recovery.

If it’s not paid within 30 days, White will authorize the attorney general’s office to file a civil lawsuit. The sum accrues 1 percent interest each month until the demand is paid in full.

Logan Reeves, a spokesman in the auditor’s office, said Fields, during the years in question, was performing bookeeping duties for Chancery Clerk Tillmon Bishop’s office.

“After Tillmon would cut the checks to the county, he (Fields) would not deposit them, effectively preventing Tillmon’s checks from bouncing,” Reeves said. “In doing so, he caused a loss to the county by way of interest. If he’d deposited those checks into the county’s account, the county would have received interest on that money.”

On May 22, supervisors voted 4-1 to not terminate Fields following closed-door executive session that was split over two days.

District 5 Supervisor Doug Falvey was the lone no vote to the motion to retain Fields as county administrator. Falvey said he doesn’t feel Fields is acting competently as county administrator.

Discussion of Fields’ possible termination came a week after White issued a $165,000 civil demand to Bishop for failure to reimburse the county for employee salary expenses from his office, according to a press release.

Four Lincoln County supervisors — Falvey, Bobby Watts of District 2, Nolan Williamson of District 3 and Eddie Brown of District 4 — were also issued civil demands related to voting to improperly pay the salary of a chancery clerk employee with county funds. Board President Jerry Wilson of District 1 said he voted against the motion.

Investigators from the auditor’s office concluded the supervisors voted to pay these salaries, but Bishop failed to reimburse the county for over $125,000 in employee salaries from 2015 to 2018, according to the auditor’s office. This was discovered after a field auditor identified accounting irregularities during an audit of Lincoln County, according to a press release from White’s office May 14. The demand Bishop received is worth $165,813.11 and includes investigative costs and interest.

Reeves said he cannot comment on that case, but said Fields’ demand letter is a result of that ongoing investigation.

Fields returned a call to The Daily Leader, but did not want to comment.