Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Investigation Finds $1M in Improper Government Payments to Memphis Nonprofit

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 12:11 PM

click to enlarge MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR TENNESSEE/FACEBOOK
  • Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee/Facebook

Government investigators found more than $1 million of improper reimbursements received by the now-defunct Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee (MRCT), resulting in federal inducements for the nonprofit’s former leader.

The MRCT was a nonprofit focused on economic development, land conservation, environment, and wildlife preservation in six West Tennessee counties near the Mississippi River. The group was funded by private donors and grants from state and federal agencies. The nonprofit’s board voted to dissolve the organization in March 2017. 
click to enlarge MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR TENNESSEE/FACEBOOK
  • Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee/Facebook

A two-year investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office, the United States Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General, and the Tennessee Valley Authority Office of Inspector General reviewed 62 of the group’s reimbursement requests and payments received from state and federal agencies. They found that 57 of them included unallowable costs set by state and federal grant laws.

These included reimbursements for architectural and contracting services that were not properly bid, reimbursements that were supported with missing or falsified documentation, and reimbursements for personal expenses including meals, entertainment, fuel, and baby shower supplies, according to a news release by the Tennessee Comptroller’s office on Wednesday. These payments totaled more than $1 million from March 2011 to March 2017.
MRCT also doubled-up on some reimbursements, getting numerous payments for the same expenses. These payments totaled $176,196, according to the Comptroller.

MRCT got grant funding for two building projects, both of which are now either abandoned or demolished. The $856,685 Reelfoot Lake interpretive visitor center was torn down in October 2018. The $357,275 Dyersburg River Park and Blueway project is currently abandoned.

click to enlarge Breaking ground on the Reelfoot Lake interpretive visitor center in 2016. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR TENNESSEE/FACEBOOK
  • Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee/Facebook
  • Breaking ground on the Reelfoot Lake interpretive visitor center in 2016.

Investigators said MRCT leader Diana Threadgill instructed her staff to falsify accounting records. She also continued MRCT operations after the board of directors voted to dissolve the nonprofit in March 2017, and she even requested and received additional funding in May 2017.



Threadgill was indicted by a federal grand jury earlier this month in the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, on three counts of mail fraud.

“This investigation points to multiple failures at many levels,” Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson said in a statement. “The MRCT board of directors and advisory council members not only had potential conflicts of interest, but they failed to provide adequate oversight. State agencies must also do a better job of monitoring and reviewing how grant funds are reimbursed.”
click to enlarge Threadgill (right) gives a presentation in 2017. - MISSISSIPPI RIVER CORRIDOR TENNESSEE/FACEBOOK
  • Mississippi River Corridor Tennessee/Facebook
  • Threadgill (right) gives a presentation in 2017.

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