Grand jurors this month indicted former Houston County Mayor George Clark and charged him with one count of official misconduct and one count of tampering with government records.

Tennessee Comptrollers released a report Wednesday that accused Clark of falsifying documents to help two former county employees. Those employees allegedly received unauthorized unemployment benefits that totaled more than $9,000.

“Clark signed separation notices for both employees stating the reason for their termination was ‘lack of work.’ However, investigators determined that both employees voluntarily resigned from their positions, therefore they were ineligible for unemployment benefits,” according to the report.

“According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (TDLWD), ‘unemployment insurance is a benefit program funded by Tennessee employers for workers who have lost their job by no fault of their own.’”

Investigators, the report went on to say, met with Clark to discuss the unemployment benefits that the former employees received. Clark admitted he approved the applications for the unemployment benefits.

“Clark also informed investigators that he did not respond to any notices the TDLWD sent for the county to dispute pending unemployment benefits because he believed the state would give the unemployment benefits to the former employees anyway,” according to the report.

Houston County is governed by a mayor and 14 county commissioners who represent seven districts within the county. The current mayor is James Bridges. Bridges was elected to his position in the fall of 2018 after he defeated Clark. Clark’s mayoral terms spanned more than 30 years, the report said.

Houston County has a population of 8,201 people with a median household income of almost $43,000 a year and a nearly 18 percent poverty rate, according to a recent U.S. Census.

Tennessee Comptrollers released a report last month that addressed what they said were the rising costs of college textbooks in the state.

In August, Comptrollers reported that the former district manager for the Bristol-Bluff City Utility allegedly misappropriated more than $294,000 in district funds and spent it on herself. That former district manager, Tina Grindstaff, held that position from August 2008 through 2019, the Comtrollers’ audit said.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.
Photo “George Clark” by George Clark.