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Grievance filed at Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission

Employee caught submitting fraudulent expenses

Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning CommissionClarksville, TN – An employee at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Regional Planning Commission has filed a grievance claiming a “hostile” work environment.  That same employee was recently reprimanded by Planning Commission Director Dr. David Ripple, for submitting fraudulent expense reports and overcharging local, state and federal agencies for his travel expenses.

John Stanley Williams filed a grievance this week claiming that Audrea Smithson, a fellow RPC employee, has been treated more favorably as it relates to sick leave, comp time and absences from the office and he and “others” are asking for an outside/independent agency to review Smithson’s records, interview staff members and report their findings to the executive committee.

The grievance does not name the “other” employees who are making the request, and Ripple told Clarksville Online that he does not know who Williams is referring to.  Ripple has five working days to respond to the grievance.

Williams has also admitted to keeping a “journal” on Smithson that reportedly documents her every move as it relates to her work schedule, something that Smithson discovered herself, and reported to Ripple.  Williams allegedly kept the journal for several years on office computers.  According to sources, it has since been deleted, but several copies of the journal exist. Smithson referred to it as “stalking”and was considering filing a grievance against Williams but Dr.Ripple talked her out of it.

Williams questions the accuracy of Smithson’s time sheets and the amount of sick leave she’s claimed, and says they are fraudulent.  He claims that he and “others” want an independent investigation, although he is the only employee who signed the grievance.

It’s unclear where or how Williams obtained  the information about Smithson, but he has admitted to Ripple that he had the records. Williams made no formal requests;  speculation is that he obtained it from Finance Director Judy Burkhart’s office without her knowledge, according to sources within the office. It’s also unclear how Williams was able to gather all of that information without the help of others.  Ripple said that will be part of his investigation.

Williams, himself, was just disciplined in November 2012 for submitting inaccurate expense receipts and collecting money to which he was not entitled for a series of conferences he attended on behalf of the planning commission. The overcharges totaled $835.13.   Dr. Ripple required that Williams pay the money back, and then assessed him five annual leave days for the fraud.  Ripple also told Williams he would not receive a raise during the current fiscal year, or any reclassification to a higher pay grade or step adjustment.

Williams accepted the discipline in a letter dated November 19th, 2012 and said, “As long as all ‘exempt’ employees are treated equally, I accept your findings.”  Williams wrote a check for the overcharges.

The tension between Williams and Smithson came to a head on Tuesday of this week, following a meeting of the executive committee  attended by both mayors.  Williams made allegations during the meeting that he had not been involved in the budget process last year when Smithson was interim director.  Smithson responded,  “that’s just not true.”  Afterwards, the two got into an argument in the hallway.

Sources tell Clarksville Online that Montgomery County Mayor Bowers and Clarksville Mayor McMillan singled out Smithson for her behavior, but not Williams, and said they were disappointed by the exchange.

Mike Harrison, chairman of the executive committee, said he was surprised at Williams’ expense reports and his admission to keeping the journal on Smithson.  “Stan knows he’s an ‘exempt’ employee and how his comp time and sick leave are handled, so I’m surprised at his oversight on his expense reports.  In the corporate world, if you submit fraudulent expense reports and get caught, more than likely you would be terminated.”

On Williams keeping a journal on Smithson, Harrison said, “I’m also quite surprised that he has admitted to keeping a journal on Audrea for all those years.  I would be concerned, too, if I learned that somebody was tracking my every move and I’m not sure that during the gathering of all that information about Smithson, Williams  hasn’t done something seriously wrong, if not criminal,” Harrison stated.

Dr. Ripple would not discuss much about the grievance until he has had a chance to investigate.

This is the second grievance filed at the Regional Planning Commission within the past year.

This is a developing story.  Follow Clarksville Online for further updates.

Hank Bonecutter
Hank Bonecutterhttp://www.clarksvillesmotorcycle.com/
Hank Bonecutter is a retired broadcaster and media consultant based in Clarksville, Tennessee. His career includes stints at WKDA/WKDF and WKQB Rock 106FM, WLAC-AM in Nashville. He concluded his career as owner/talk show host at WJZM-AM in Clarksville. Currently the President of Bonehead Promotions, he's an advertising consultant and media strategist. An avid motorcyclist, Hank blogs about his travels exclusively at www.clarksvillemotorcycle.com and www.clarksvilleonline.com You can follow Hank on on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/dodgintheroadkill/, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/?lang=en, and Instagram https://www.instagram.com/dodgetheroadkill/?hl=en  

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