SEVIERVILLE — Before their arrest by the FBI for providing fake registration for stolen cars, Roberta Lynne Webb Allen had no reprimands on the job but Brandy Thornton had been reprimanded once for insubordination.
Allen and Thornton are now facing criminal charges in federal and state courts that all stem from allegations they were providing clean registrations for stolen cars for more than a year.
The Mountain Press obtained the personnel files for the two clerks through a freedom of information request.
They confirm that both were fired Oct. 8 — the day after the FBI arrested them — due to their arrest on charges involving public corruption.
Webb-Allen was hired in 2013, and had no reprimands in her file.
Thornton, who had previously worked for the Sevier County Trustee’s office, was hired in 2013.
Her file includes a reprimand for insubordinate from Cotter in February of 2017, specifically referencing texts sent by Thornton to Cotter at 12:24 a.m. and 1:30 a.m.
“You made several accusations involving my inadequate supervision of the office, made numerous derogatory statements about me personally and threatened to take further action,” Cotter wrote.
Cotter also noted she had ignored numerous messages from Thornton before.
She said she felt Thornton’s actions could merit dismissal from the job, but she chose to issue a written reprimand because she hadn’t addressed them before.
“It is obvious that your are not happy in your current position so perhaps the best thing for you to do is to seek other employment,” Cotter wrote.
But Thornton stayed, and there are no other records of issues between the two of them until this past June 16, when she filed a formal complaint that she was being discriminated against.
That complaint, sent to the director of human resources for the county, didn’t include any specific allegations.
“As this injustice is multi tiered, the complete details and lengthy description of such will be filed by my attorney,” Thornton wrote
County officials said Monday that Thornton never provided any additional details from the unnamed attorney.
The letter does include a request by Thornton to see the most recent comptroller’s audit of Cotter’s office.
That audit included a finding that there was “an employee of the county clerk’s office whose time sheets did not reflect the actual hours worked.”
It says Cotter admitted that an employee had occasionally been absent longer than her allotted lunch hour, and the records show the additional breaks hadn’t been accounted for by taking them from comp hours or vacation hours.
Cotter concurred with that finding and said she would take corrective action.
The only other finding involving Cotter’s office from the comptroller’s yearly audits during her tenure had to do with an ongoing dispute over letting multiple employees use a single cash drawer.
Cotter has served as clerk since 2010, when Joe Keener was caught taking more than $90,000 from the office.
Keener eventually plead guilty to official misconduct and theft, saying that he had taken the money out to repay personal loans.
When the comptroller’s office began auditing her it included a finding that multiple employees were using the same drawer, which was considered a significant deficiency.
Using a single drawer for each employee allows managers to detect a cash shortage immediately and to determine which employee is responsible for it, the audit said.
The finding was in each audit until 2016, when Cotter include a response defending the process but said she would comply with the recommendation.
“We have operated with one cash drawer forever, without one cent missing,” she said. ‘We are all in one room and within sight of each other.
They made deposits each day, rather than every three days, she said. “If there is a mistake, it is easy to find and reconcile.”
However, she said they were ordering cash drawers for each employee, and that finding wasn’t included in subsequent audits.
Cotter did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
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