Press Release from the Office of Tennessee Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, April 22, 2018:

The Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has identified $84,097.95 of questionable expenditures within the Overton/Pickett Emergency Communications District. The district provides enhanced 911 emergency telephone service for Overton and Pickett Counties.

Comptroller investigators question the use of district funds for a variety of purchases including $18,700.12 in food. The district purchases food on a regular basis and investigators question whether many of the food items and supplies are used solely for district-related purposes. These purchases included alcohol, medications, and a variety of purchases at groceries and restaurants.

The questionable expenses also include the district director’s use of the district’s credit cards to purchase $678.05 in fuel while on multiple personal out-of-state trips. District board members were not aware the director used his assigned district vehicle for personal out-of-state travel.

Investigators have also raised questions about the purchase of equipment such as a $3,599.95 massage chair for the district’s office, and a drill press and sand blast cabinet, which are located in the Emergency Management Agency building.

Other questionable expenditures for training classes, public relations, travel payments in excess of policy, possible conflict of interest purchases, and items that are not exclusively used in district operations are noted in the investigative report.

Comptroller investigators attempted to speak with all full-time employees of the district. However, the majority of the full-time employees declined to meet with investigators; therefore, investigators were unable to confirm whether many of the district’s purchases were for the benefit of the district and its employees or for personal benefit.

“Many of the problems noted in this report can be attributed to oversight,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “District board members must do their part to ensure accountability. This includes discussing and approving major spending and reviewing credit card transactions.”

Investigators have shared their findings and recommendations with the district attorney general for the Thirteenth Judicial District and with the Thirty-first Judicial District, district attorney general Pro Tem.

To view the investigation online, go to: http://www.comptroller.tn.gov/ia/

If you suspect fraud, waste or abuse of public money in Tennessee, call the Comptroller’s toll-free hotline at (800) 232-5454, or file a report online at: www.comptroller.tn.gov/hotline. Follow us on twitter @TNCOT

Media contact: John Dunn, Public Information Officer, (615) 401-7755 or john.dunn@cot.tn.gov

If you’re looking to test your angling talents against other paddling bass stalkers, then take note: Rock Island State Park is hosting a season of kayak-fishing tournament events this year.

Ranger Allen Reynolds is supervising the Rock Island State Park Kayak Bass Fishing Series 2018, which cost only five bucks per date to enter, or $20 for all of them.

“This year is something of a trial effort, we’re trying to generate interest and build on it from there,” said Reynolds, himself a fisherman who says there’s an abundance of fish and diverse water-types and aquatic habitats holding fish in the area, not to mention a range of fish species.

Using the “hawg trough” and photo method for fish measurement, the competition point-system is focused on the three main black-bass species: largemouth, smallies and spotted or Kentucky bass. You can a contact the ranger station at least a day ahead of a tournament date to rent a hawg trough.

There’ll also be a prize awarded at the end of the year for “most unique fish” as well. Reynolds anticipates that could end up being a gnarly looking muskie, since the launch point for certain tournament dates is the Kings Ramp on the Collins River, just south of the RISP main entrance. The Caney Fork’s tributaries above Center Hill Lake are renown for their mean and stealthy pike-species predators lurking in the currents.

Tournament No. 2 in the series begins this Saturday at 5:30 am at the RISP boat ramp.

The other dates are as follows:

  • May 5 — 6am-1pm (Rock Island State Park Boat Ramp)
  • June 9 — 6am-1pm (King’s Landing Boat Ramp)
  • September 8 — 6am-1pm (Rock Island State Park Boat Ramp)
  • October 6 — Final Event, Time and Location TBA

In addition to hopefully introducing angles to exciting new fishing waters around Rock Island State Park, one of Reynolds’ motives behind organizing the tournament series is to “level the playing field” for people who may want to participate in fishing competitions but aren’t already all-in with high-dollar investments.

“There are a lot of guys that really like to fish but maybe don’t have a big bass boat or whatever,” he said. “I think that’s the appeal of this kind of fishing.”

For those new to the sport of kayak fishing who want to test the waters before plunging in and buying one of their own, kayak rentals are available in the area.

While it’s billed as a kayak fishing tournament, it’s probably more aptly a described as a self-propelled personal watercraft competition. According to the rules, only human-powered vessels are allowed, like canoes, kayaks, paddleboards. No electric or gas motors permitted and all fish must be caught from the boat.

Both fly-fishing gear and traditional rods and tackle are permitted. However, only artificial flies and lures are allowed. No live (or formerly alive) bait can be used, said Reynolds.

Unfortunately, the famed “Blue Hole” between Center Hill Lake and Great Falls Dam isn’t really accessible for the tournaments, said Reynolds.

“If you put in at our boat ramp (on Center Hill Lake) you would have to do some dragging with your boat and it is not really safe,” said Reynolds. “Everybody wants to go fish the blue hole in a boat, but it is just too dangerous. I have had to deal with too many rescues of people who were unaware of what happens when the water comes up. It catches a lot of people off guard.”

Reynolds said he’s angling for corporate sponsorship as the tournament grows, but so far it’s mostly supported locally. Chances are, though, if kayak fisherfolks start showing up in numbers, Eric Jackson will probably take notice. Jackson, a world-champion freestyle kayaker turned competition bass angler, lives in the realm of Rock Island, and the headquarters and manufacturing center for his paddlesport boat-building company, Jackson Kayak, is located just up the road in Sparta.

Contact allen.reynolds@tn.gov to learn more about the tournament, or visit the RISP Facebook page.