Knox county employee certification program put on hold

Knox County employee certification program on hold, bonuses capped

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By MIKE KRAFCIK
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Knox County Commission is putting new limits on county worker bonuses earned through an online training program. 

The program has been a source of controversy since the revelation that workers under county Trustee John Duncan III were paid before completing the course.  

Commissioners passed a resolution Monday that caps bonuses for the program known as CTAS. Under the proposal, county officials and full-time supervisory level county employees would receive up to but no more that $1,000. 

The resolution also closes the program until an ongoing investigation into the trustee's office is complete.  

"There were a lot of questions being asked, like who's eligible? What are the criteria? What will the cost be? And so forth and so on," said commission Chairman Mike Hammond.

There are 15 employees currently enrolled in the CTAS program who are eligible to take the course, but their bonuses would be subject to the $1,000 limit.

"These are the only people eligible for it. Nobody can be added to it. The program basically stops until we've have a chance to do a thorough review," Hammond explained.

The program will then be closed until commissioners have an opportunity to look at the results from the CTAS task force formed by Commissioner R Larry Smith. He was the only commissioner to vote against the proposal.    

"We had a task force, and my goal is that once the investigation is over, we go from there," Smith said.  

The county trustee's office has been under investigation since January after allegations of employees in that office taking tests for others and collecting the bonus money before completing the course.    

Employees of the office returned $60,000 they collected in bonus money.  

Last year, county finance records show 18 people, including elected officials, received bonuses totaling $35,558.

The money for the bonuses comes from extra money collected by fee offices.  

Register of Deeds Sherry Witt has two employees who are currently enrolled in the course. "We won't know what our return on our investment has been until later on. Hopefully these employees will stay with Knox County for many years to come," she said.  

Commissioner Hammond says this resolution need to be passed because different fee offices had to set their budgets by October 31.  

Over the last two years, five of the six fee offices in Knox County handed out bonuses amounting to more than $140,000.

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