Investigation uncovers questionable payments to Blackman High School football coaches

(Photo: WKRN)

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) – An investigation into booster club funding at a Rutherford County school revealed questionable payments to coaches and secret bank accounts.

The Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury released the investigative report into the Blackman High School Football Boosters.

According to the report, they’re under fire for secret bank accounts, unauthorized cash payments, questionable checks, and gift cards to coaches.

“The booster club was paying cash, writing checks, and giving gift cards to coaches without any prior approval by the school board,” said comptroller office spokesman John Dunn.

Investigators reviewed football boosters’ records from May 11,2009 through March 27,2015.

According to the 17-page report, the booster club paid out nearly $96,415.69 in unauthorized supplement payments to coaches and made other questionable transactions.

Eight days after the Rutherford County Board of Education approved a policy requiring salaries and all supplements be paid through the school district’s payroll system, the BHS Booster Club opened a second account.

“Essentially opened up a second account for the purpose of paying their coaches and assisting coaches’ money on the side,” explained Dunn.

Former head football coach Phillip Shadowens resigned on March 27, 2015, which was the day the investigation was announced. He told state investigators he did not receive any cash from any booster club fundraisers or from the concessions, but was reimbursed with cash for receipts for legitimate football expenses.

But text messages between the coach and the booster club treasurer showed that they tried to hide or conceal the field house account, according to state investigators.

The text from the treasurer reads in part, “I’m going to have to do some creative accounting.”

The coach responded, “Sounds good. Make it look good. Lol.”

The investigation also shows $200,472.51, which was written from multiple accounts, was disbursed to build a field house.

“However, due to a lack of supporting documentation and complete accounting records, total construction costs could be higher,” the report stated.

The field house problem didn’t go out for bid.

Also, $69,649.42 in questionable fuel was purchased by the school.

“About $10,000 of that was purchased by the former football coach, his wife, and in one case even his daughter,” Dunn told News 2.

The coach claimed it was for things such as mowing the grass, but the comptroller’s office couldn’t find any documentation to support that claim.

State investigators said this sends a clear message to booster clubs across Tennessee.

“Booster clubs are there to boost up their team, boost up the players and coaches, not there to boost the salaries through unauthorized payments,” explained the spokesman.

The comptroller’s office handed their findings over to the local District Attorney, who will decide or refer the case to a Rutherford County Grand Jury to determine whether charges will be filed against those involved.

A Rutherford County Schools spokesman said Blackman principal Dr. Leisa Justus notified the district about the questionable accounting issues by the football booster club, and immediately moved the funds into the school’s account to ensure proper oversight.

Shadowens is now head football coach at William Blount High School.

On Thursday afternoon, Director of Schools Rob Britt held a news conference and said they were informed that no charges would be brought against the coach after a 4-month investigation by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.

With Thursday’s developments, district officials said they will decide what to do after they review the comptroller’s investigative report.

“Our plan is to review that information in its entirety and determine what if any action will be necessary on behalf of the Blount County School System,” Britt said.

To read the entire investigative report, click here.

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