Knox Co. Audit Committee insists on cooperation from county auditor

Knox Co. Audit Committee insists on cooperation from county auditor

Richard Walls Richard Walls

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- After getting the cold shoulder from Knox County Auditor Richard Walls, the audit committee asked Thursday for county commissioners to instruct him to cooperate with an external peer review.

Walls has refused to participate in the review process being conducted by auditing firm Alexander Thompson Arnold (ATA). 

Walls claims the review is tainted by the firm's ties to Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's office.

ATA listed the county's former external auditing firm, Rodefer Moss, as a reference on its bid proposal.

Walls claims the review is one of several retaliation measures taken against him by the Mayor's office because of negative reviews he performed.

According to audit committee Chairman Joe Carcello, not only is Richard Walls not cooperating with the peer review, he's not responding to numerous phone calls and emails from the committee and the law department.

"I regret he is not calling us back. I regret he's not doing the work that he has been hired to do by county commission," said audit committee member Ed Shouse.

According to an email sent to commissioners, Walls is taking annual leave to deal with complaints filed against him by the mayor's office with various auditing organizations. 

Walls said he's in constant contact with his staff and visits the office periodically. According to Knox County payroll, Walls has more than 300 hours in vacation time.

Meanwhile, the audit committee is standing by the selection of ATA, saying the firm is qualified and fair.

Speaking of the interview process, "This firm has done nothing wrong and we were questioning him like he was some sort of felony suspect, which really wasn't fair to him. Then we had him sign an affidavit," Carcello said.

A number of commissioners attended Thursday's meeting and they're ready to move forward with the peer review with or without cooperation from Walls.

"This reminds me a great deal of when my three-year-old doesn't want to go to bed and asks for a glass of water or different pajamas or another story or another stuffed animal and after three or four requests she loses credibility. At some point as a parent, it is time to go to bed," said Commissioner Amy Broyles.

The audit committee decided against bringing in an additional auditor, approved by Walls, to help with the peer review because it would cost the county more time and money.

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