UCDD saga continues
By: AMANDA HILL BOND,
Controversy, extravagant spending, luxury facilities, possible misappropriations of state and federal funds have all been in the news lately and it looks like it's not over yet.
Last Friday, Feb. 24th, at a special called meeting in Cookeville at the Upper Cumberland Development District in front of standing room only, director Wendy Askins and deputy director Larry Webb were put on administrative leave for 30 days. Eric Carwile was appointed acting director and Ashley Pealer was named deputy director.
The recommendation was made that Askins and Webb surrender all agency keys, credit cards, gas cards and company vehicles and they will not be able to sign any checks while an internal investigation by the state comptroller's office continues.
The controversy stems from the "Living the Dream" project, a Mediterranean-style 6,600 square foot facility on 11 acres of countryside in Putnam County. The facility is said to be for low-income elderly people who are independent enough to manage most daily tasks without assistance, however Askins and her daughter also live there.
This is not the first time the UCDD has been in headlines with controversy. Back in 1978 there was a "bitter power struggle" during a meeting that ended with the firing of the director of the Human Resource Agency and a failed attempt to fire the UCDD director Don Wakefield.
Back then the two agencies were located together and operated in tandem. UCDD was a planning agency while HRA operated the various programs.
Allegations that John Carr, then director of the HRA, failed to correctly inform the executive committee about funds in the executive account when the committee approved purchase of an automobile that was to be used by the director. State auditors were brought in at UCDD and citied â€śapparent conflict of interestâ€ť in the corporation and many other actions by the agency.
The Upper Cumberland District Board of Directors called a special meeting last Friday where the board voted to put UCDD Director Wendy Askins and deputy director Larry Webb on administrative leave for 30 days pending the outcome of an investigation.
Photo: Ty Kernea