Possible Money Missing in Outdoor Chattanooga Program

By Alan Denton


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/The Loop)—The Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department may be missing money.

An internal auditor found in 2009-2010 many violations in the Outdoor Chattanooga recreation program. The audit shows cash collections were not properly handled, documented, and submitted within three days, the lack of maintenance of support documents to facilitate an audit of cash collections, and fees collected were not always in accordance with City Code.

The auditor found Phillip Grymes, Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga, also served on the board of the program Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga (FOC). In July 2009, FOC opened a business checking account even though it does not own or lease any facilities or have any paid employees.


Executive Director of Outdoor Chattanooga and Former Board Member of the FOC

The audit found “substantial amounts of money” being deposited in the FOC’s bank account over the past 18 months from fundraising and public events. But the events were promoted by the City of Chattanooga using the Outdoor Chattanooga name.  The auditor found instances where checks made payable to Outdoor Chattanooga were diverted to FOC’s bank account.

In response to the internal audit, Grymes stepped down from his board position in the FOC.

City Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who began the talks during April 5th’s City Council Meeting, says, “It’s my understanding that we have money that’s missing. We definitely need to follow up on that.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan says the internal auditor is still looking into another item that hasn’t been completed yet but the decision to put it into a report form or not hasn’t been decided.

“If there is confirmed evidence of money missing, we will get a recommendation to take legal action on it once we review and see there is substantial evidence to support an action,” says McMahan.  “It may be that I’ve just dropped the ball on this, but I really am personally not aware of that. And it would have come to me, and I don’t know why I would have seen it or addressed it. But I will do so immediately.”

City Attorney Mike McMahan on the Audit

According to a Chattanooga Times Free Press article, Outdoor Chattanooga was created in 2003 by former Mayor Bob Corker to promote outdoor activities throughout the city and region.