New questions raised in Bradley County surveillance van sale

Times Free Press

Chattanooga Times Free Press | Judy Walton | April 5th, 2016

“A Bradley County, Tenn., commissioner on Monday had more tough questions over how the sheriff’s office handled the sale of a county surveillance van in February.

Some commissioners have questioned why the van, which they say had more than $100,000 worth of surveillance equipment aboard, was sold to a Nashville bail bondsman and businessman for $20,000.

At the county Finance Committee meeting Monday, Commissioner Dan Rawls pressed Sheriff Eric Watson to explain why there was so little documentation for the transfer of a costly county asset — not even a bill of sale, just a copy of a cashier’s check with no notation what it was for.

“We don’t have anything tying anything together,” Rawls said. ” I don’t see a paper trail here. All I see is we transferred a vehicle out of our possession that was worth a considerable amount of money and now we have a $20,000 check but that check doesn’t tie to anything.

“To be honest with you, I don’t like the way that smells. I think this needs to be looked at further,” he said. ” I would like to have an investigation done on this. I want to know what went where. I want a bill of sale. I want all of that. To show that this check went with this van when it was for this amount.”

Finance Committee Chairman Milan Blake said whether to call for an investigation would be up to the full commission.

Watson defended the sale, saying the county got the best deal it could for what he called “obsolete” equipment. The sheriff’s office tried to sell the 2006 van on GovDeals.com, where it frequently disposes of surplus property, but Watson said the top bid of $12,000 was well under the $30,000 reserve price set for the vehicle.

So, he said, he took the van to the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association’s winter expo in Franklin, Tenn., in January. He said the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation looked it over and didn’t put in an offer. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office said it would pay $12,000, he said.

“Call them and ask them,” the sheriff said…”