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Comptroller visits in Roane

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By Damon Lawrence

Taking on public corruption doesn’t come without some backlash.

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“That’s part of the game,” Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury Justin P. Wilson said.

“We have people who don’t think we’re accurate. We have people who don’t think we’re fair or there are people that just don’t like for us to say what we found.”

Wilson, one of the state’s constitutional officers, visited Roane County on Friday.

“The constitutional officers that we have now, we believe that our offices belong to the people and we need to get to the people,” Wilson said. “We need to go out and see people.”

Fighting fraud, waste and abuse are some of the duties of the comptroller’s office.

“I believe that we are accurate, and I believe that we are fair,” Wilson said. “I do understand why people sometimes don’t like what we say.”

Wilson’s office released the findings of an investigative audit earlier this year that alleged former Rockwood public works director Tom Pierce used a city credit card and a city store charge card to purchase at least $32,725 in property and services for his personal benefit.

The Tennessee General Assembly elected Wilson as the state’s 34th comptroller in January 2009. He was elected to his third term this past January. Wilson said 505 people are on the comptroller’s staff. 

“We audit the state, and we audit 89 of the counties,” he said. “We’ll review the audits of all the cities and we look at the books and records of all the public utilities in the state.”

The Roane Alliance was one of the stops on Wilson’s trip to Roane County.

“It’s very difficult for me to see a circumstance where Tennessee will not be able to deliver essential services to the people,” he said.

“Our pension plan is one of the strongest in the country. Our debt is very, very low on a per-capita basis. We meet our obligations. We’re in good, at the state level at least, good strong financial shape.”

Some of the challenges facing Tennessee, Wilson said, are jobs and the Affordable Care Act.

“The Affordable Care Act is just a fancy word for Obamacare,” he said. “We don’t know exactly what the rules will be. If we knew exactly what the rules would be we probably could deal with it.”

Wilson said the state’s unemployment rate is still too high.

“You got qualified people who can’t get work,” he said.

Prior to becoming comptroller, Wilson was a partner in the law firm of Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis.

He was no stranger to state government, however, having served as commissioner of the Department of Environment and Conservation and as deputy to the governor for policy under former Gov. Don Sundquist.