Records: Official paid to attend meetings, but didn't show up - WSMV News 4

Records: Government official paid to attend certain meetings, but didn't show up

Updated: Feb 19, 2018 07:07 PM
Luke Collins, Executive Director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency Luke Collins, Executive Director, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency

Minutes from meetings attended by the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency show he was not in attendance, yet he received per diem, reimbursement of gas mileage and hotels in order to attend those meetings.

It’s the latest findings in our ongoing investigation into Luke Collins, who is already facing scrutiny for his time sheets after a News 4 I-Team investigation found him on trips and on vacations when his time sheets showed him working.

In a letter to UCHRA board members sent on Friday, Collins called the findings by the I-Team “lies.”

UCHRA is a government agency that receives tax dollars to fund essential programs in rural areas, including Meals on Wheels and transit for people without transportation.

RELATED: Timesheet shows government official working; video & photos indicate otherwise | Designed for transit of poor, vehicle used to travel to political event | Executive director of UCHRA placed on administrative leave

On Oct. 24, 2014, Collins submitted a credit card receipt for $166.51 for the Hotel Indigo, as well as per diem payment of $99 and $73.22 for reimbursement of gas mileage, for his trip to Nashville for the Tennessee Association of Human Resource Agencies.

But the minutes from that meeting show that Collins was not in attendance.

On Jan. 25, 2016, Collins submitted a nearly identical reimbursement, per diem and hotel payment to attend another meeting for TAHRA.

The minutes from that meeting also show Collins was not in attendance.

In an email to the I-Team, Cindy Miles, TAHRA’s program assistant, wrote about the minutes of the meetings, “If they are not listed, they did not show up for the meeting.”

“I think that needs to be scrutinized very closely. That's taxpayer dollars. And if that's being misused that needs to be scrutinized and investigated,” said Randy Porter, UCHRA board chairman.

Chairmen on the board and former staffers who reviewed the News 4 I-Team’s finding said the money paid for hotels and for per diem to Collins comes as a time of financial trouble for the agency.

“A couple hundred dollars would feed a few meals to folks that need a meal that's on the waiting list for the meals on wheels program,” said Kenneth Carey, UCHRA board chairman.

“There's just been no accountability as far as Luke’s concerned,” said Linda Tramel, a former employee of the UCHRA.

Collins agreed to an interview with the News 4 I-Team to discuss our findings but then backed out the night before.

The News 4 I-Team ultimately tracked him down at the building where he had agreed to do the interview, but he refused to come out.

The News 4 I-Team has also received many more of Collins’ per diem payments, and we are reviewing those and will report back with any new findings.

In the letter Collins sent to UCHRA board members, he said, “I’m sure you share my disappointment in the recent lies in the media questioning my time spent at work.”

Collins went on to write that he is confident that when they have to opportunity to discuss these matters that the air will be cleared, and that he believes he is operating in complicate compliance with the board’s instructions that he is allowed to use comp time.

However, Joe Parker, HR director for UCHRA, confirmed to the News 4 I-Team that Collins is not eligible for comp time because he is a salaried, exempt employee.

The minutes from a 2012 board meeting, in which Collins requests comp time, board members said Collins could take comp time if the Department of Labor allows it.

A spokesman for the United States Department of Labor confirmed to the I-Team that if someone is a salaried, exempt employee, that an employer does not have to offer comp time.

Collins wrote that he may miss next week’s board meeting because he is caring for an ailing mother.

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