Renee Lee Munn, 45, who resigned from her position on July 11, has been under investigation for the suspected crimes since early July when Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis requested District Attorney General Steven Bebb to begin the inquiry.
Bebb promptly requested TBI’s involvement.
Munn, who reportedly cooperated with TBI agents throughout the investigation, was booked late Friday at the Bradley County Jail and released on $5,000 bond, according to Kristin Helm, public information officer in TBI’s Administration Division.
According to a media statement released by Helm, Munn was indicted by a Bradley County Grand Jury earlier in the week on one count of theft and one count of official misconduct.
Stephen Hatchett, assistant District Attorney General in the 10th Judicial District, said Saturday Munn could be arraigned as early as Monday; however, due to a crowded court docket the arraignment could be delayed until November.
Official misconduct is considered a Class E felony and carries a potential sentencing of one to two years; the theft count is a Class D felony and carries potential sentencing of two to four years, Hatchett said. He pointed out the accused would be eligible for “alternative sentencing,” meaning a probated sentence. The assistant DA said he is uncertain if Munn had retained legal counsel.
“Ultimately, she will have the same rights as anyone else,” Hatchett said. “She can plead a sentence ... or face a trial.”
Helm’s press release reported Munn’s alleged improper use of the Bradley County Finance Department’s office supply account apparently began in May and continued into July, up until the investigation was launched. The illegal charges on county funds totaled approximately $3,200, the TBI statement reported.
“In May of 2013, while employed as an accounts payable clerk, Munn changed the Bradley County Finance Department’s Quill office supply account to ship all items to her home address without knowledge or approval from her supervisors,” Helm’s press release cited. “Munn ordered items, billed them to Bradley County and received no shipping charges or taxes on any order.”
The statement added, “The items she ordered were for personal use and totaled approximately $3,200 in charges to the county. She continued to charge the Bradley County Finance Department for items until July 2013 when confronted with the scheme.”
Dan Howell, executive assistant to the county mayor, who spoke at length with the Cleveland Daily Banner in July to confirm the start of the TBI investigation and Munn’s resignation, said Saturday he and Davis stand by their original statements in response to Munn’s arrest.
In the July 14 edition of the Banner, Davis stressed unlawful practices by employees will not be tolerated. He repeated the statement Saturday.
“All county department heads know that as mayor, I will not tolerate such actions by employees,” Davis stated. “That’s why I directed the head of the Finance Department [Lynn Burns] to immediately notify the DA’s Office, who in turn, asked the TBI to investigate.”
Howell added his own assessment.
“You can’t have somebody ... using county accounts, and by extension, county funds or taxpayer funds, to purchase items for their own personal use, whether or not they intended to pay it back,” Howell said.
Of Munn’s decision to resign, Howell told the Banner on July 12, “It became apparent to [her that she] was in serious trouble so [she] chose to resign.”
Howell confirmed again Saturday that Munn would have been fired on July 12 had she not resigned the day before.
Davis explained departmental protocol allows county officials to identify inappropriate actions involving taxpayer money.
“The county has internal controls in place to safeguard against situtations like this,” Davis said in July. “Those safeguards were instrumental in bringing this problem to light.”
According to Cleveland Daily Banner archives, suspicions of possible wrongdoing surfaced July 5 when [Bradley County Finance Director Lynn] Burns discovered certain discrepancies on bills received by the county.
“The evidence presented to me on that date suggested that an employee of the Finance Department [had] been using a county account, county funds and tax exempt number to purchase items for her personal use and [have] them shipped to her home address,” Davis said then.
The mayor immediately directed Burns to report the finding to the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office. The finding also was reported to Bradley County government attorney Crystal Freiberg. On the same day, Davis notified DA Bebb and asked his office to pursue an investigation. The mayor instructed the Finance and Human Resources departments “... to assist the District Attorney General in any way possible.”
Munn’s identity had not been disclosed in Cleveland Daily Banner news accounts during the investigation, pending the official leveling of charges. Those charges came before a grand jury early last week and led to her indictment. The grand jury’s action was followed by Friday’s arrest by TBI agents.