WASTE WATCH: Midstate Mayor Under Fire for How He Spent Tax Money
Updated: Monday, November 11 2013, 10:42 PM CST
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HENDERSONVILLE, TN - There are some serious concerns about how one local mayor is spending your tax dollars. Scott Foster has been mayor of Hendersonville for nine years, and there are new questions about how he is spending on the city's dime.
Scott Foster spends much of his day inside his office at Hendersonville City Hall. A review of the mayor's expense reports from the last seven years show a lot of business is happening inside Hendersonville area restaurants. The expenses from 2006-2012 total more than $17,000.
"We have noticed some very serious financial problems," says Neil Siders. Siders is the editor of everythinghenderonsville.com. Siders and FOX 17 News have reviewed the mayor's expense reports and found thousands of dollars have been spent on meals where no business purpose is listed.
"We just want to know where our money is spent and how we benefit from that money being spent," says Siders.
We took our findings to Mayor Foster who says the purpose of many meals is confidential because it involves recruiting new business. However there are a number of dining receipts that weren't itemized, which raises questions about whether alcohol had been purchased against city policy. We specifically asked about a $252 meal at Ruth's Chris Steak House, and $97 spent on lunch at the Hermitage Hotel Oak Bar.
It's not our practice to buy alcohol. I'm going to tell you, it's just not our practice. Can I guarantee that there were no glasses of wine drunk over a 10 year period that I paid for, no I can't," says Mayor Scott Foster.
Our review also turned up a number of receipts for hotels near Hendersonville. The mayor stayed overnight in Lebanon, Murfreesboro, Franklin, and downtown Nashville. There is even a stay at the Hyatt Place hotel in Hendersonville, which can be seen from the city hall parking lot.
Mayor Foster says he stayed in the hotels while participating in the Leadership Middle Tennessee program. He says they are a legitimate expense. "One of the requirements is that you stay in that county that night. I think it builds a connection between folks in other counties," says Foster.
Donna DeSopo has been critical of the mayor's spending and spoke to us about the expense reports. "Actually it's really unfortunate and it saddens me, because that money is forever gone," says DeSopo.
Foster contends many of his expenses are a cost of doing business, and he always remembers the taxpayer is footing the bill. Journalist Neil Siders wants to make sure the charges make sense. "Find it hard to believe any citizen can find these logical good financial expenditures for the city that benefits every citizen," says Siders.
Mayor Foster says his expenses are frequently audited by his own finance director and outside auditing firm. He adds his record keeping is improving with more details on receipts. Mayor Foster says his goal is to do what is right so that his spending is not called into question.
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