On Thursday, Jan. 11, Luke Collins appeared to be in hog heaven.
Smiling and laughing with his family, surrounded by hogs at an MTSU 4-H competition in the middle of the day, the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency appeared to be having a great time.
But look at his time sheets for that day, there is no mention of being on a trip with his family.
Instead, it shows he was working all day.
The trip to the competition during a workday is just one example of questionable time sheets for Collins, who makes $90,000 a year to run the agency that serves 14 counties.PREVIOUSLY REPORTED: 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 | Executive director of UCHRA placed on administrative leaveA review of Collins’ time sheets shows in other cases, he did not mark down that he’d taken vacation time on dates when he is tagged on social media, even shown in pictures, out of state on trips.
In these cases, Collins signed each sheet.
The News 4 I-Team took our findings to two chairmen who sit on the board that oversees UCHRA.
“After what we’ve shown you, what was your reaction?” asked the I-Team.
“Shocked, I think. I couldn’t believe it,” said Chairman Kenneth Carey, the county mayor of Cumberland County.
INTERNAL TRACKING OF WORK HABITS
A three-month undercover News4 I-Team investigation began when we were contacted by current and former employees because of concern for the direction of UCHRA.
For years, Collins has been in charge of the financially-troubled agency that provides essential services including Meals on Wheels and transit for people without transportation.
Two sources within the agency confirm they’ve been shown a series of documents obtained by the News 4 I-Team.
The documents show a carefully documented list of Collins’ work habits over a two-year period.
The two sources confirm that the documentation was compiled by James Starnes, the deputy director of the agency.
The documentation notes how often Collins left early from work and didn’t return, or didn’t work at all.
The News 4 I-Team sent the document to Starnes who agreed to look at it to confirm that he, in fact, compiled it, but he has since not returned calls or emails.
QUESTIONABLE TIME SHEETS
On one page, the document notes that Collins was out on a cruise for a week starting on July 4, 2015.
On Facebook, a friend tagged Collins and his wife and wrote, “heading out on a fun trip.”
When that friend returned eight days later, she again tagged Collins’ wife and wrote, “heading home.”
The News 4 I-Team obtained Collins’ time sheet for that week between July 4 and 12, and there is no mention of him taking a vacation.
In another Facebook post from Oct. 14, 2013, Collins is shown in a picture with a group of friends hunting out of state.
His time sheets from that week have no mention of taking a vacation.
“When it comes to your own county government, if someone doesn’t put down vacation time on their sheet, are they abusing the system?” asked the News 4 I-Team.
“Absolutely,” Porter said.
DIFFICULTY FINDING COLLINS
Darwin Carter, a 27-year employee of UCHRA who was laid off a few weeks ago by Collins, said it was often difficult to locate him in order to get purchasing orders signed.
“I used to have to take documents to him to get his signature. You'd go up to the receptionist and say, ‘Do you know where Luke is? (She’d say) no, I don't.’”
The News 4 I-Team spoke with several current and former employees who all said that Collins is rarely in the office during the week.
The News 4 I-Team contacted Collins and offered to show all of our documentation, and he agreed to an interview.
On the night before that interview, Collins said he would not be available.
The News 4 I-Team went to Cookeville to try and speak with him on the day of our scheduled interview.
When we went to his office, the secretary said he was not in and did not know where he was.
When we went to his home, a woman in a truck drove by us and said Collins was at a doctor’s appointment and instructed us to leave their property.
We ultimately found Collins at a private building where he had originally instructed we meet, but he would not come out to speak with us.
After reviewing our findings, the chairmen on the board said they had no choice but to send our documentation to state investigators.
“I turned it over to the Comptroller’s office,” Porter said.
“You were that concerned?” asked the I-Team.
“Yes sir,” Porter said.
The chairman of the entire UCHRA board, Curtis Hayes, said based on the findings from the I-Team, they have launched an internal investigation.
Hayes said he could not comment pending the results of that investigation.
As for comp time, the human resource director for UCHRA said because Collins is a salaried employee, he is exempt from getting comp time.
The News 4 I-Team has received more documentation pertaining to questionable financial records and will be following up this story in the coming days.
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