UCDD Boss Raises More Questions With Radio Interview
By Phil Williams Chief Investigative Reporter
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The controversy over the Upper Cumberland Development District took a new turn Friday as the head of that agency took to a Cookeville radio station to defend herself.
But her answers raised even more questions.
UCDD executive director Wendy Askins' radio interview came after she had refused to sit down and answer questions from NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Appearing on The Dwight Henry Show on WHUB-AM, Askins defended that million-dollar, Putnam County project she called Living the Dream, a house that was supposed to become a retirement home for needy seniors that also became her home.
"It was money, we've had over $50,000 in cash donated to this project," Askins told host Dwight Henry.
Askins claimed that any of the luxuries the public might find controversial -- including that $1,600 chandelier and those $3,000 showers -- came from public donations.
"If you think the chandelier is too elaborate, well, money was given to offset that chandelier," she claimed. "If you think the shower is too elaborate, same thing happened there."
The problem: she's not be able to provide a list of those donations in response to requests by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
And remember that second-hand furniture from her own house that she sold to Living the Dream, paying herself full price?
She had a new story.
"Actually, the furniture was bought for a project -- it was bought for another project that we thought would already completed by now," she insisted.
The host did not ask what why Askins might have furniture from another UCDD project in her house.
Then, there was a question about all the checks we discovered that Askins wrote to cash or to herself.
"Nobody seems to be that interested in the attached receipts, but every penny that's ever been given to me is backed up with attached receipts," she claimed.
In fact, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has asked for that documentation.
But a letter from UCDD's own law firm, says: "It does not appear that Living the Dream kept detailed records matching the receipts for those particular checks."
Askins also claims there were no government funds in the project.
UCDD was established by the legislature to create jobs and help the poor. The agency makes money off of administering federal and state government projects, but her argument is that those government fees aren't government money.
She claims that the agency can do anything they want with that money.