By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – Embattled UCHRA director Luke Collins has been booted from his position following a close 14-12 vote by the agency’s policy committee.
The policy committee’s vote, which included input from county and city mayors as well as consumer representatives, was close but when the executive board voted to ratify the policy council’s vote, a large majority of votes were cast in favor of firing Collins.
The decision to terminate Collins was made following a closed-door attorney-client meeting in which the results of an independent investigation into the misconduct accusations against Collins were revealed to board members.
While the findings of that investigation, conducted by Tim Pirtle, attorney for the city of McMinnville who was chosen by the UCHRA board earlier this year, cannot be discussed publicly at this time, board members commented that the information revealed was “disturbing.”
Putnam County Executive Randy Porter tells the UCBJ that he and other board members have had concerns regarding UCHRA’s leadership for some time.
“We voted, back a couple of years ago, (to dismiss him),” Porter said.
Over the years a myriad of employee complaints and lawsuits, accusations of program mismanagement, combined with programs losing money and negative publicity, left some board members questioning Collins’ effectiveness in leading an agency designed to help the area’s most-needy citizens.
Two other investigations, one being led by the state comptroller’s office and another being performed by TDOT, are still ongoing; though sources say that the comptroller’s investigation is complete and the report has been forwarded to the district attorney, and also the US attorney’s office, for review.
In a typical investigation performed by the comptroller’s office, findings revealed during an investigation are often forwarded to the district attorney for review and consideration of any criminal charges to be pursued. Though, with the potential involvement of federal grant money and resources reportedly entangled in the misconduct accusations against Collins, further review by the US attorney’s office may be required.
Prior to the board’s adjournment, Collins addressed the members, thanking them for allowing him to serve as the agency’s executive director.
Interim executive director Mark Farley will continue to lead UCHRA until a permanent replacement is chosen. A seven-member search committee will be established to begin the process of selecting Collins’ replacement. Members of that search committee are expected to be selected during a meeting next week.