Government agency that serves poor could cease as independent or - WSMV News 4

Government agency that serves poor could cease as independent organization

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An embattled government agency that provides transportation and meals for the poor could cease to operate as an independent organization.

The idea of dissolving the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency and merging with another development district came during a meeting to find a new executive director.

The UCHRA has been rocked by controversies this year following a series of News4 I-Team investigation that resulted in the termination of its former director, a scathing state investigation, and a TBI investigation into two of its board members.

After the termination of its director, a search committee was launched.

The notes from the June 8 meeting of that committee shows that Curtis Hayes, UCHRA’s board chairman, recommended a discussion the possibility of merging with the Upper Cumberland Development District.

Hayes is among the board members investigated by the News4 I-Team for pocketing reimbursement money that critics say should have gone back to their cities and counties.

Since the termination of former director Luke Collins, the executive director of the UCDD, Mark Farley, has also served as the interim director for UCHRA.

The committee is now considering merging the two because of their approval of Farley’s work.

“The former leadership of the agency was a problem. We want to go with a different route of leadership,” said Greg Wilson, chairman of the search committee.

Wilson also said that the committee is seeking an opinion from the Tennessee Attorney General to see if the merging of the two is even allowed.

PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: District attorney reviewing findings by state investigators | Executive director of government agency terminated after I-Team reports | Time sheet 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 | Executive director of government agency terminated after I-Team reports | Agency board knew of complaints about executive director 2 years ago

Wilson stressed that even if UCHRA dissolved, its services would still remain.

“We've got to make sure the people of the Upper Cumberland are served and their services are not interrupted whatsoever, and number two is to make sure employees at both agencies are secure and their benefits are not affected,” Wilson said.

The UCHRA board is expected to discuss the move at its Tuesday meeting.

Also on the agenda is the discussion of whether reimbursement of board members should continue in its current manner based on the I-Team investigation into potentially improper pocketing of the money.

The News4 I-team will provide complete coverage Tuesday on all our platforms.

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