Following a series of News 4 I-Team investigations into his questionable time sheets, per diem payments and use of a public transit vehicle, the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency was placed on administrative leave with pay pending an independent investigation.
The UCHRA made the decision Wednesday morning and has asked the agency’s attorney to find an attorney to lead an independent investigation.
Though he indicated in a letter to board members last week that he would not attend, Luke Collins attended the different committee meetings until the board approved his administrative leave.
Some members of the board argued that Collins should not receive pay while on administrative leave, but ultimately the motion was passed to allow him to be paid while the investigation was underway.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 eventThe action comes following a series of News 4 I-Team investigations, including how he 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.
The News 4 I-Team repeatedly tried to speak with Collins, who said he could not talk to us because he was at the meeting for business.
Will Roberson, who identified himself as Collins attorney, told the News 4 I-Team to stop approaching his client, even though the meeting was held in a public, taxpayer-funded building.
“You're going to stay away from him or we're going to have you arrested,” Roberson said.
Members of the board’s policy committee expressed concern about Collins remaining in his position given the findings from the I-Team’s investigations.
“I'm not confident he can continue in this role,” said Chairman Greg Wilson.
During the meeting, Collins repeatedly claimed that in 2012, the board allowed him to have comp time.
“I've been falsely accused and I've come here to defend myself,” Collins said.
A review of the minutes from that 2012 meeting shows that the board indicated Collins could use comp time if the United States Department of Labor approved it.
UCHRA director Joe Parker stated during the meeting that not only did the Department of Labor not allow it, but as a salaried, exempt employee, Collins is not eligible for comp time.
"There's a contradiction there so I'd have to look into it,” said Chairman Curtis Hayes.
The board directed the UCHRA attorney to provide a list on Feb. 27 of attorneys available to lead the independent investigation.
Roberson said that investigation will reveal that the board did approve the use of comp time, regardless of what the email in question showed.
“The investigation will prove that to be the case and your reporting to be false,” Roberson said.
Rebecca Harris, the agency’s transportation director, will temporarily serve as executive director until next week when the board meets again.
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