Hiwassee College ‘lacked management oversight’ before closure, Tennessee Comptroller finds

Regional News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Operating deficiencies related to disbursements, travel reimbursements, and the release of restrictions on monetary gifts at Hiwassee College were found during an investigation by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office.

In a report released on Thursday the office said it reviewed accounting records, bank statements, and supporting documentation for the period July 1, 2016, through Sept. 2, 2019, before the Madisonville college closed.

“These deficiencies can be attributed to a lack of management oversight and inadequate maintenance of accounting records,” the report states.

Hiwassee College closed in 2019 after the board of trustees determined the college’s financial struggles were insurmountable.

The investigation found a former college president was reimbursed twice for the same expense. The report doesn’t name the former president. A $1,510.77 travel expense for lodging was reimbursed in November 2017 and again in March 2018. The former president has agreed to reimburse the college.

At the time of the closure Hiwassee College’s President Robin Tricoli said the complaint likely came from a disgruntled former employee and that the college would comply with the investigation.

“We can understand that the state would want to look very closely to verify that something else is not at play,” Tricoli said. “We welcome this inquiry and will cooperate fully with the District Attorney’s Office if any additional information might be needed as they complete their work.”

Additionally, investigators determined that Hiwassee College did not ensure all provisions of state law were met before releasing $1,135,170.56 in funds with donor imposed restrictions from its endowment. 

The released funds were deposited into the college’s operating account, and investigators found no indication that the institution failed to use these funds for the benefit of the college.

To view the investigative report, go to comptroller.tn.gov/office-functions/investigations/find.html.

The results of the investigation have been passed to the Office of the District Attorney General of the 10th Judicial District.

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