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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -
The Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services spent $6,440 on hotel rooms for a interim director for the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute.
The Channel 4 I-Team found several cheaper options available that would have saved taxpayers thousands of dollars.
"In this case, someone dropped the ball," said Ben Cunningham, with government watchdog group Tennessee Tax Revolt.
The state put interim MTMHI Chief Executive Officer Bob Micinski in a hotel room at the Country Inn & Suites near the Nashville International Airport for 88 days while a national search was under way to permanently fill the position.
The job came open when the former CEO resigned, following a year-long Channel 4 I-Team investigation that revealed patient deaths and abuse, as well as photographs of workers sleeping.
A source with the state encouraged the Channel 4 I-Team to look at how much taxpayers were paying in hotel rooms for Micinski while he temporarily did the job, and the Channel 4 I-Team found housing that would have saved taxpayers considerably more.
We found if the state had used corporate housing, such as the Inn Town Suites, it would have saved taxpayers roughly $2,800.
We also found hotels that received the same star ratings on Hotels.com - and were actually closer to MTMHI - that would have saved money. One hotel would have saved $1,316 and another hotel would have saved about $400.
"In government, they're never going to spend it as frugally or efficiently as we're going to spend our own money. That's pretty much a given," Cunningham said.
Michael Rabkin, director of communications for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said they looked at hotels with a state discount and chose the Country Inn and Suites.
Rabkin said the state is also free, though, to go with cheaper options. Rabkin did not recall if the state had explored using corporate housing.
Rabkin said the state made a good decision in spending the money.
"This was a cost that was definitely worth it for a position was filled at an important facility," Rabkin said.
Once Micinski was offered the job in February, he started paying for the hotel costs.
There are no state guidelines for how long or for how much agencies can spend on hotel stays for interim directors.
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