City manager: Channel 4 I-Team report shows mistakes made - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

City manager: Channel 4 I-Team report shows mistakes made

KINGSTON SPRINGS, TN (WSMV) -

The city manager of Kingston Springs told the city commission Thursday night that a Channel 4 I-Team investigation revealed mistakes were made that allowed double dipping on the taxpayers' dime, and changes are now in place to prevent it from happening again.

Our investigation showed Kingston Springs police/fire chief Eugene Ivy running a mowing business, joined by his co-worker, public works director Clint Biggers, while their peers in other cities were in the office.

But our investigation found that wasn't the only way the two, along with public safety officer Jeremy Vaughan, were making extra money while already getting paid by taxpayers.

Biggers, Ivey and Vaughan are also volunteer firefighters as well.

Through the city's incentive program, when volunteer firefighters respond to emergencies, they get a point from each call. Those points are added up at the end of the year, and the volunteers are given money.

To avoid double dipping, salaried employees with the city are forbidden from getting the incentive points while they're already on their city job.

If the city employees who are volunteer firefighters respond to emergencies on the time off, then they can get the points.

But the Channel 4 I-Team found that in a two-year time period, Ivey and Vaughan both got incentive points to responding to calls while they were already on duty.

Vaughan is prohibited from getting the incentive points while he is working his city job, but the Channel 4 I-Team found him getting those points during his shift.

The Channel 4 I-Team found over a two-year period, the three got incentive points more than 140 times when they were already on duty.

That type of double dipping is allowed in the city's rules, and it was only exposed when the Channel 4 I-Team reviewed years of records.

"The [Channel 4] investigation that they started revealed that we made a mistake," said City Manager Laurie Cooper.

It's a mistake that allowed the incentive program to go basically unchecked.

The Channel 4 I-Team also found Ivy, Biggers and Vaughan were receiving incentive points but were repeatedly failing to initial forms, so there is no proof they were ever on standby or responded to incidents or training.

"We made changes that are going to clean that up so this never happens again," Cooper said.

Those changes include moving the incentive program out from underneath the control of the fire department to under the watch of the city recorder.

Now, all forms must be initialed to prove that city employees got the incentive points while they were off duty and indeed did show up or were on standby.

"Signed and initialed. If not, they will not get any credit towards the incentive plan," Cooper said.

Cooper originally recommended that all city employees be banned from the incentive plan, but changed her mind when they created the new system requiring the initials.

Ivey, Biggers and Vaughan also had to pay back a year's worth of incentive points they shouldn't have earned. Only Vaughan attended Thursday night's meeting, but said nothing.

The three didn't have to pay back much: only $354 total. But that amount was only for one year, and the incentive program has been in place for 10 years.

The city only has records dating back to 2011, so there is no indication of how long this may have been going on.

As for the mowing, Cooper earlier said she didn't have a problem with Ivy and Biggers "moonlighting" during mowing season.

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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