MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Bank accounts from the Blackman High School football boosters were used to provide nearly $100,000 in supplemental cash and gift cards to the football team’s coaches and for other purposes between 2011 and 2015, according to a report released by the Tennessee comptroller of the Treasury.
The 17-page report released this week also questioned more than $69,000 in gas purchases by the Murfreesboro high school and the booster club’s accounting practices for a six-year period.
“Booster clubs are required to follow some basic rules to ensure that money is being handled appropriately,” Comptroller Justin P. Wilson said in a news release. “Our investigators determined that many of these requirements were not being met. I’ve noted the booster club accounts have now been closed, and the remaining funds have been deposited to the school account.”
No criminal charges were mentioned in the report, though the comptroller’s office said in the news release that their report was given to District Attorney General Jennings Jones for review. Jones declined to comment about the report in a brief interview.
The report comes more than a year after state and local officials began investigating the booster club and the actions of former head coach Philip Shadowens, who resigned as head football coach in February 2015. No charges were brought against him or club officials after review by the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office.
In the comptroller’s report, the former head coach denied wrongdoing. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment but told a Knoxville TV station he “never did anything illegal in my life.”
Officials from Shadowens’ current employer, Blount County Schools, said they would review the report, but did not take immediate action, according to a statement released Thursday. Shadowens coaches the football team at William Blount High School in Maryville.
“Our plan is to review the information and determine what, if any, action” will be taken, said Robert Britt, Blount County director of schools.
The comptroller’s office alleged that more than $96,000 worth of checks and gift cards was disbursed from one of two accounts organized by the Blackman High School boosters between 2009 and 2011. The second, described as a fieldhouse checking account, was opened eight days after a new school system policy required supplemental coaching pay to be distributed through the central office.
Text messages about the account between Shadowens and the booster club’s treasurer at the time appear to show suspicious activity, according to the comptroller’s report.
“I’m going to have to do some creative accounting,” the treasurer said in a text message to Shadowens.
“Sounds good,” Shadowens replied.
The comptroller’s office found that $96,415 was disbursed for supplements and other purposes without supporting documentation.
“The purpose and use of numerous cash transactions and gift card purchases could not be determined from our review of this account,” the report stated. “For certain transactions, football booster officers stated they were directed by the head football coach to provide cash as a coaching supplement or purchase gift cards for the head football coach, assistant coaches, and others.”
Some checks were written to “Cash” and were marked with descriptions such as “coaches supplement,” “summer $$ #2,” “summer $ – final” and “gift cards,” according to the report.
Shadowens denied receiving any cash from the football boosters other than reimbursements. However, he acknowledged that he, assistant coaches and others occasionally received gift cards. The booster club officers interviewed stated they did not use any cash or gift cards for their personal use.
Any coach receiving money or gift cards without approval by the board of education, director of schools or principal is a violation of TSSAA bylaws.
TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress said because the rule that was broken involves a violation by personnel, it would be up to Blackman High to address the disciplinary action taken.
Rutherford County Schools spokesman James Evans said that principal Leisa Justus has sent a copy of the comptroller’s report to the TSSAA and has “asked for guidance.”
When school administrators became aware of the accounting issues, they alerted district officials about the issue, according to a statement released by Rutherford County Schools on Thursday.
The club’s accounts were required to be deposited with the school when the discrepancies were confirmed, according to the comptroller’s report.
“Dr. Leisa Justus became principal of Blackman High School in June 2014, and a few months afterward, notified the district’s accounting office of questionable accounting issues related to the football booster club program,” a Rutherford County Schools statement said. “Dr. Justus took steps to correct the accounting issues immediately and moved booster club funds into the school’s account to ensure proper financial and policy oversight, which is stated in the Comptroller’s report.”