Agency board knew of complaints about executive director - WSMV News 4

Agency board knew of complaints about executive director 2 years ago

Luke Collins sits at the UCHRA Board meeting on Feb. 20, 2018. (WSMV) Luke Collins sits at the UCHRA Board meeting on Feb. 20, 2018. (WSMV)

The summary of an internal investigation by an attorney reveals the board of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency knew of complaints about their executive director two years ago and still kept him in that position.

Tuesday, that same board decided to place him on administrative leave with pay following a series of News 4 I-Team investigation that revealed potential problems that are similar to what was revealed by the attorney’s findings in 2016.

A three month investigation by the I-Team revealed how Collins used a public transit vehicle to attend a political event, how his hotel rooms and per diems were paid for to attend out of town meetings yet records indicate he did not attend, and his time sheets that show he was working while we found him on trips and on vacation.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: Timesheet shows government official working; video & photos indicate otherwise | Records: Government official paid to attend certain meetings but didn’t show up | Designed for transit of poor, vehicle used to travel to political event | Embattled agency director placed on administrative leave

In 2016, the board hired attorney Vester Parsley to investigate complaints and morale problems within UCHRA.

After interviewing 49 employees and reading eight statements from eight others, Parsley concluded, “The future of the agency seems to be quite precarious and programs may be eliminated if there isn’t a drastic change made.”

Parsley’s findings found employees had both positive and negative comments about Collins.

Parsley wrote that employees had the concern that women and long-serving employees seemed to be singled out by Collins.

The summary also stated that employees voiced concern that Collins was absent from the office on Fridays and Mondays and abused sick time leave policy.

“The concerns expressed to me were more about Mr. Collins lack of knowledge of the job and the appropriate manner to manage a program of the magnitude of UCHRA,” Parsley wrote.

After the summary was presented, Parsley confirmed to the News 4 I-team that Collins be fired.

The board then voted whether or not to remove him, and the final vote allowed Collins to stay in office.

2018 findings reflect 2016 concerns

On Jan 3, 2018, Linda Tramel feels what happened to her that day was predicted in the investigative summary two years prior.

The long-time UCHRA employee was tipped off that she was being laid off, so she recorded her entry into the building and her discussion with UCHRA human resources director Joe Parker about the ending of her employment.

In the video of that discussion, Parker said tells her she is being laid off and that he is having to do Collins’ dirty work.

“It’s retaliation Joe, you know it is,” Tramel said.

“I know that,” Parker said.

Parker then vows to tell the truth if questioned in administrative or EEOC hearings.

The News 4 I-team obtained other grievances and complaints against Collins, some claiming retaliation.In an interview, Tramel said following the 2016 investigation, the board was aware of concerns by staff that some employees were being targeted by Collins.

“The harassment and the retaliation has gone on ever since he's walked in the front door,” Tramel said.

Hayes, who is the current board chairman but was only a committee chairman in 2016, said he was unaware of retaliation concerns.

“Retaliation has not been brought to my attention. Absolutely I'm worried about it,” Hayes said.

Asked why the board in 2016 learned of the concerns and opted to keep Collins in his position, only to have to place him on administrative leave and launch another internal investigation, Hayes said he himself voted to fire Luke in 2016.

“I voted to fire him during that investigation and so did seven others. But the motion failed. So there was no firing,” Hayes said.

The News 4 I-Team attempted several times to interview Collins on Tuesday, but his personal attorney said if we continued to question him in the hallway of the public building, we would be arrested.

When we continued to ask questions to Collins after that, all he would say is that he asked we give him some space.

Just like it did in 2016, the board is once again looking for an attorney to launch an independent investigation into the findings by the News 4 I-Team.

Danny Rader, attorney for UCHRA, sent an email stating that News 4 should not broadcast the internal summary because it is an “illegally obtained document.”

Rader wrote that the information is privileged and confidential information and that we should destroy the document.

News 4 protects our sources and we do not intend to reveal how we obtained the document.

The UCHRA is a government agency and we feel you have a right to see this information.

Copyright 2018 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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