By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
UPPER CUMBERLAND – Following Luke Collins’ announcement he would be taking family medical leave to care for his mother, the UCBJ has learned some of Collins’ friends are coming to his defense.
An investigative report conducted by WSMV in Nashville alleges the executive director of the Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency falsified his timecards and took vacations while he was listed as being on the company clock. He is also accused of wrongly instructing employees to charge some of their time to the agency’s transportation department.
READ: UCHRA director under investigation
Now, supporters of Collins are coming to the defense of the man, they say, is the victim of a “witch hunt.”
In a letter addressed to UCHRA board chairman and Livingston mayor Curtis Hayes, Rob Edwards, head coach of the Clay County High School men’s basketball team, says his friend, Collins, is a hard worker and the claims against him were “initiated by some disgruntled employees and former employees.”
“I am a bit out of my comfort zone writing this letter. However, I feel compelled to share with you, and your board some information regarding Mr. Luke Collins,” Edwards writes.
Collins, he says, often took phone calls while on personal time and “is essentially a 24/7/365 employee of the UCHRA and the people of the Upper Cumberland are lucky to have him.”
“Whether it be on a trip, a Saturday, or a holiday, I have been witness to him talking on the phone regarding UCHRA business for up to an hour,” Edwards added.
Collins, Edwards adds, is “fanatical” about his position within the UCHRA.
“He absolutely has the best interest of the agency and the people of the Upper Cumberland in mind,” he wrote.
Another man, identified as Johnny Redd, took to Facebook in Collins’ defense.
“He is one of the most honest, hard-working, church-going family-loving men I’ve ever known and I love and respect him,” he said. “And I would gladly lay down my life for the man without hesitation cause (sic) that’s how much he means to me.”
Last Friday, Collins provided a letter to board members stating he would be taking family medical leave to help his family care for his mother. That announcement came just two days after WSMV aired the first round of its investigative findings.
READ: UCHRA director takes ‘family medical leave’
The agency’s executive committee, along with other committees, are scheduled to meet later today. Despite his leave of absence, Collins says it is his intent to be present at today’s board meeting but requested the board’s understanding should he be absent.