By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor

FENTRESS COUNTY – The search is on for a new permanent finance director to oversee Fentress County’s finance department following the ousting of the previous department director. 

Kelly Cooper-Crabtree, a 16-year employee of the county’s finance department, has been named the deputy director while the county commission begins the search for a new director. 

Marsha Delk was fired as the county’s finance director earlier this month following a lengthy investigation that included opinions from the state and attorney Jeff Jones; this according to a press release from Fentress County Executive J. Michael Cross dated June 19. From there, it was determined that Delk breached the trust of the county’s finance committee.

Despite an article published by a local media outlet stating a recent investigation into those allegations indicated she did nothing wrong, Delk was fired last Monday by the county commission. 

“It brings me no joy to have to do so,” Cross’ statement reads. “As in everything, there is always an element of emotion, especially with people with whom I have worked with extensively.”

“It’s like the weight of the world has been lifted because they have put me through pure hell for two months now; I’m glad its over,” Delk said, addressing those in attendance at the June 18 meeting.

Marsha Delk, former Fentress Finance Director, addresses the commission at the June 18 meeting.

The actions that lead to the investigation included a series of pay raises, reportedly not approved by the county commission, to employees within Delk’s office and the solid waste department between 2015 and 2016. 

One finance department employee, who was being assigned a significant increase in work load related to the Affordable Care Act and records-keeping, was nominated by Delk to receive a raise. This after a representative of Five Point Benefit solutions advised Delk to either hire an additional full-time employee, or increase the pay of the existing benefits coordinator. 

“(The representative) said, ‘if you don’t hire a full-time person, you need to let your benefits person have a very sizable raise because they are taking on one heck of a job if you put it all off on them,’” Delk recalled.

County officials later opted to increase the existing employee’s pay instead of hiring a new full-time employee for the county’s finance department. 

The amount of $9,000 came about after a member of the county finance committee asked Delk if the amount would be enough, she said. Delk and the committee member together discussed the employee and thenew assignments as well as the proposed pay increase and the employee reportedly accepted. 

“The later on, the more I thought about it, the more I thought, my other girls (in the finance department) work hard; they don’t get vacations, they don’t get lunch breaks, they’re there every day and all of them had extra stuff added on them, too,” Delk said. 

Wanting to be fair to each of the finance department employees, and recognize their hard work, Delk said she approached the same committee member and brought up the concerns of maintaining fairness among the finance department staff by distributing raises to other employees as well. 

The money used for the raises came from within the Finance Department’s budget, Delk said, and was within the line item allowing flexibility to be distributed in the form of pay raises. 

“They all deserve it,” Delk said of the raises. “I never took a penny of this money for myself. I would not … I wasn’t raised that way.” 

The UCBJ has reached out to Delk as well as the Fentress County CTAS coordinator for comment but did not receive a response prior to publication. 

The Fentress County Government is currently accepting applications for a new finance director from now until Friday, July 6. 

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