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Shelby County Commission Continues Controversial Program

A program that has been audited and been the subject of a lengthy investigation by the Local 24 News I-Team is scheduled to continue on Wednesday, but that...
Shelby County Commission Continues Controversial Program

There are plenty of places in Shelby County where people need help. Northaven is one of those areas. And a program that gives Shelby County Commissioners money for non-profit groups is supposed to help.

It’s called the Community Grants Program. Each of the thirteen Shelby County Commissioners gets $150,000 taxpayer dollars to spend for not for profit groups. Commissioner Terry Roland says it gives him a chance to help the people he represents.

“North Shelby County, has been left out, in the past”, Roland said. “This money and is also going back to the taxpayer in the form of things that help the community.”

He uses as an example how he spent $10,000 of his grant money donating to the West Tennessee Veterans Home fund. Roland represents Millington, which he says has the largest population of veterans in Shelby County. 

“There always needs to be more oversight,” he admits, “… but I try to pick my non-profits that have a good name. That have a good past.”

Things sometimes don’t go well. Last fall, Local I-Team’s Senior Investigator Jeni Diprizio found proof that while a not-for-profit might have asked for money for one reason, they spent it on something else.

$2,500 was given to the Greater Life Networks to build a gazebo on property they owned. That’s not what happened. Verlean Kelly of the group told Diprizio, at the time, “We did a gift basket. We gave away turkey and food baskets for the holidays. That’s where some of the money went as well.”

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell has had serious concerns about the Community Grant program since day one.

“It hasn’t risen to a criminal issue,” he says, “… but that’s what can happen if you don’t have the proper controls in place.”

Commissioners have scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday, June 27th, to discuss the two final applications for the program this year.