Former finance director speaks out on past statements about training, records

Published 1:11 pm Friday, April 26, 2024

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By Buzz Trexler

Star Correspondent

Former Carter County Finance Director Brad Burke reached out to The Star earlier this week, saying he wanted to set the record straight regarding statements made concerning the transition period from his tenure in the office to that of current Finance Director Carolyn Watson.

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The statements – reportedly made by then-Financial Management Committee chair Ginger Holdren at the Aug. 23, 2021, Carter County Commission meeting – are now approaching three years old. During an interview on Wednesday, Burke said he was upset when the statements were initially made but decided at the time to “let it go.”

But as those claims get repeated with follow-up reports regarding the Finance Department, he decided, “I ain’t letting it go.”

According to an Aug. 25, 2021, report in The Star about the Aug. 23 meeting at which Burke resigned, Holdren said, “We told Mr. Burke that we expected him to train the new person, but he failed to train anybody in that department.” Holdren also is reported to have said no records or computers had been shared with anyone by Burke.

Burke said both of those statements are not true.

“They were training,” Burke said. “I had them working in Skyward some, figuring things out, looking at the reconciliations, looking at the schedules we do, and actually there was a list prepared before I got there and I added to it a step you take at the end of each month, the end of each year.”

 Burke described the routine training experience in the Finance Department as including manuals from the County Technical Advisory Service at the University of Tennessee. “You go through county government, step by step, lays out the structure, how it works, the laws and whatnot,” Burke said. “That’s what I had everyone doing.”

 Burke said during that time, “I was closing everything out. We’re required by state law to have everything out by Aug. 31,” which the former finance director said was his “primary concern.”

 “It wasn’t like they’re saying that I refused to train them,” Burke said.

 As to the claim that the former finance director failed to share records or computers, Burke said that was not true. He said there was a shared drive, and the files were available, “every one of them.” Burke said he gave an IT department staff member his computer the morning after he resigned. “I wasn’t trying to hide nothing,” he said.

 “I just want to stop being blamed,” Burke said.

 Prior to becoming county finance director, Burke said he was employed by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury in the Local Government Audit Division and carried out county audits, including Carter. Burke said when he took the finance director’s job in 2018, his goal was to help Carter County “straighten out” the financial records. That desire to help continued even after his resignation, Burke said, pointing to his offer to stay on until someone qualified was hired.

 “But I mean, we can’t go back and change it,” Burke said. “I’m happily retired. Ain’t no way I’d go back. I just, you know, I know a lot of people around here. It’s like I’m getting tarnished when I don’t need to be.”