Investigation finds problems at Upper Cumberland human resource agency

Staff Reports • May 24, 2018 at 5:05 PM

Tennessee comptroller’s office officials released the results of an investigation into the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency based in Cookeville, a multi-million-dollar operation that administers several programs and provides services to citizens.

Comptroller investigators noted two instances when the former executive director’s time sheets indicated he was working, however, social media posts indicated he used compensatory time for trips. Investigators believe he should have taken annual or sick leave when he was absent for work.

On Dec. 4, 2012, the UCHRA board’s personnel committee approved a motion to allow the executive director to use comp time. Investigators reviewed the UCHRA employee and policy handbook, which establishes the exempt and non-exempt classification for all employees. Investigators believe, as an executive level employee, the former executive director was not entitled to earn comp time.

Investigators also found problems related to the former executive director’s travel claims. In three instances, the former executive director claimed he attended meetings in Nashville and Washington D.C., but the documentation obtained by investigators did not support those claims. As a result, the former executive director was reimbursed $706.77 and charged $3,791.31 to his agency credit card for travel expenses when supporting agencies had no record of his attendance.

Additionally, investigators determined the former executive director entered into legally binding agreements on behalf of the UCHRA without prior board approval.

The UCHRA also paid travel expenses in advance for board members, board members’ families, employees and employees’ families. In some instances, the travel expenses were not related to UCHRA business. The Tennessee comptroller’s office felt this practice should be eliminated.

On May 9, the UCHRA board of directors fired the former executive director.

The comptroller’s office reviewed its finding and recommendations with the district attorney general for the 13th Judicial District.

“Our investigation found several weaknesses related to time reporting at UCHRA,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. “At a minimum, the board chairman should sign the executive director’s time sheets as evidence of review and approval, and time and leave policies should be followed.”

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