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UCDD directors placed on administrative leave
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Executive Director Wendy Askins and Deputy Director Larry Webb were placed on administrative by the Upper Cumberland Development District board of directors Friday, with some members pushing for Askins’ dismissal.The board, meeting in an emergency session in Cookeville, voted 16-5 to put Askins and Webb, who were not present at the meeting, on leave for 30 days, with pay for two weeks.The five board members voting against the measure were in favor of Askins immediate removal from the position.“It's key for this board today to do the right thing, and not administrative leave,” Byrdstown Mayor Chris Thompson told the board. “She needs to be gone today.”“There's no way this board can deny that this is an administrative problem and that she (Askins) does not need to come back and be over the Upper Cumberland Development District,” Thompson continued.Askins and Webb were replaced by Earl Carwile, who was named interim director, and Ashley Pealer, who was appointed interim deputy director.The board also voted to rescind a previous vote which apparently adopted language from altered minutes which approved a $300,000 transfer to Living the Dream."Those minutes and the alteration of them is central to this investigation, I can tell you that," UCDD attorney Bob Walker told the assembly, saying that he needed 30 days to complete a fair and honest investigation of the matter.Board chairman and DeKalb County executive Mike Foster agreed that a thorough investigation is needed to sort out the facts of the affair.“You don't make a case until you have all the facts, and you don't get your warrants until you know what you're talking about,” Foster said.The board instructed attorneys to get the $300,000 back by whatever legal means they have at their disposal.The board voted to seek new auditors as well, and went as far as requesting an investigation of Tom Jones, who recently performed an audit which apparently did not expose any wrongdoing.Since many alleged discrepancies were discovered by NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, board members are now questioning why Jones has never turned up any findings during previous audits of agency finances.Askins and Webb are both long-time affiliates of UCDD.Askins was appointed to the post in June 1995 by Webb, who was serving as DeKalb County executive and chairman of the UCDD board.Webb came aboard in April 2001 as UCDD director of housing.Askins' reportedly draws a $111,240 salary, while Webb is reported to earn $85,050 yearly.