Editor’s note: This story was provided to the Elizabethton Star as part of a news partnership between WJHL-TV and the Star.
Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes says he has opened an investigation into the use of student labor to work on a houseboat owned by the director of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology Elizabethton.
The investigation centers around work TCAT students completed at TCAT Director Dean Blevins’ houseboat on Boone Lake earlier this year.
“Electrical, welding … that type of work was going on there,” Mathes said. “There’s nothing wrong with somebody building a boathouse and upgrading it and fixing it up, but when state or government funds are used in any shape, form or fashion, that’s why this investigation has been brought to me.”|
Mathes said he opened an investigation into Blevins around the same time the Tennessee Board of Regents completed an audit into an allegation of inappropriate use of students.
The audit concluded electrical and welding students completed the work on the houseboat through the school’s live work program, a state-approved program that allows students to work on public or private jobs for their educational benefit.
The audit found the school did not completely follow proper process when filling out forms and collecting fees for the project, and while saying it would be difficult to determine whether there was an actual conflict of interest, said that the work “created at least the perception of a conflict of interest.”
However, Board of Regents spokesperson Monica Greppin-Watts said that although the audit found a question as to whether or not a conflict of interest occurred, the audit found overall, Blevins followed the rules.