Taxpayers Of Shelby County Speak Out About County Grants

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Shelby County taxpayers are sounding off about a program that lets County Commissioner's dole out cash to non-profit groups.

The commission is considering holding the agencies who get grants more accountable after the Local I-Team uncovers money was being spent on projects it shouldn't have been.

Each of the 13  county commissioner gets $150,000 a year to hand out to groups that ask for money. Add it up and it totals nearly $2 million dollars taxpayer dollars a year.

From a playground at a church to banners at the Collierville Town Square, to bounce house rentals. Shelby County taxpayer's picked up the tab.

More than 100 agencies got up to $25,000 each from Shelby County Commissioners.

Ask taxpayer's what they think about it this is what you'll hear.

"Government should not be in the business of giving out money to charitable organizations as a blanket policy," said George Kuehl, a taxpayer.

"It's fine with me as long as it's for a good cause," said John Clayton, a taxpayer.

Right now there is no oversight to make sure the money was spent properly.

The Local I-Team uncovered, the non-profit agency that owns this lot was awarded $2500 dollars to clean the lot and build a gazebo.

A year later, there is no gazebo. this is what the property owner says she did with some of the money. 

"What we did last year during the holiday I brought tables out we did a food basket. We gave away turkeys and food baskets for the holidays and that was a major treat and that's there some of the funds went to as well giving back to the community during the holidays," said Verlean Kelly, a grant recipient.

"You're talking about a large amount of money you're talking about a personal slush fund for these county commissioners," said Mark Cunningham, spokesperson for the Beacon Center of Tennessee. 

The Beacon Center, a statewide government watchdog group. " The fact is is the Beacon Center is a non-profit so do you think your elected officials should have a chance to give us taxpayer money? Cuz I don't think so."

Cunningham has concerns not only with what the money is being spent on but why, "You wonder if the money is going to someone who might support them politically to some non-profit and then that person is giving their campaign money it's hard it's hard to really tell what the effective use of this is ."

In addition to the Shelby County commission looking to make changes to the program for better accountability.

County auditors are investigating to see if grant money was misused.

"Why not just get rid of it completely and put tax payer dollars back in the pockets of taxpayers," said Cunningham. 


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