BYRDSTOWN – A special investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office found that Pickett County Highway Superintendent Jimmy Cope directed county-purchased gravel and rock to be delivered to private property.
Cope admitted that he ordered the gravel and rock to be transported by county employees driving county trucks to be placed on various private properties in Pickett County on request.
Based upon interviews with Cope and another highway department employee, they estimated that as many as four loads of gravel per week were placed on private property. Investigators estimate this practice cost the county at least $13,205 annually.
Cope claims that he never asked for votes and never received money in exchange for the gravel and rock. Cope told investigators he would provide county gravel to any Pickett County citizen who asked.
He last won election in 2014 and ran unopposed.
“This activity raises questions about use of taxpayer-funded resources, and it could also place the county at risk,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a release. “Using county equipment on private property could expose the county to potentially unlimited liability in the event that an injury or damage occurred as a result of this practice.”
Cope advised Comptroller investigators he would immediately cease the practice. The report was issued March 1.
To view the special investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/repository/ia/pickettcountyhwydept.pdf
To report fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call (800) 232-5454, or file a report online at www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline.