Government agency asked to pay back $130K tax dollars - WSMV News 4

Government agency asked to pay back $130K tax dollars

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Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency office in Cookeville, TN. (WSMV) Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency office in Cookeville, TN. (WSMV)

An embattled government agency at the center of a News4 I-Team investigation is once again facing scrutiny, this time accused of mismanaging $130,249 in federal grant money.

An audit from the Tennessee Department of Transportation found $130,249 in questionable spending of federal transit grant money by the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency.

TDOT is now asking for all the money from the questionable spending be returned.

“We believe they have submitted expenses to us that were not covered under the grant,” said TDOT spokeswoman B.J. Doughty.

The News4 I-Team reported in February that TDOT auditors were zeroing in specifically claims made in a grievance by a former UCHRA employee when she was terminated.

The employee wrote that the now terminated director of UCHRA, Luke Collins, was telling employees to falsify their time.


The employee claimed Collins directed employees that even if they weren’t working on transportation projects, that they should record their time as if they were because the transportation program had all the money.

Among other problems, the TDOT audit found that employees in the agency’s nutrition program were billing their salaries to the transit grants.

Mark Farley, the interim UCHRA director, reviewed the audit and feels that the agency will be able to justify some of the spending, but not all of it.

“There are definite mistakes in here that we will concur, that there is really no excuse for,” Farley said.

When asked who ultimately is responsible for the mismanagement of the money, Farley said that Collins did make uneducated statements that weren’t backed up by federal regulations.

The News4 I-Team did send a copy of the audit and a request for an interview to Collins’ attorney, but he did not respond by our deadline.

Farley said paying the entire $130,249 would drain the agency’s reserve and fears that this could hurt UCHRA’s reputation.

Doughty said this could impact how much grants are given to the agency in the future.

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