Two Investigations Named Finalists In IRE Awards - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates:

Two Investigations Named Finalists In IRE Awards


Two separate NewsChannel 5 investigations were honored Wednesday as finalists for the national Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) Awards.

One of those projects was NewsChannel 5's months-long investigation of the Upper Cumberland Development District in Cookeville.  That investigation exposed rampant misspending and other misconduct inside a government agency that was supposed to create jobs and help the poor.

Longtime UCDD executive director Wendy Askins resigned before she could be fired by the agency's board.  Her assistant director, Larry Webb, also resigned.

The second project raised serious questions about whether former Putnam County Property Assessor Rhonda Chaffin undervalued properties belonging to some of the county's wealthiest residents, essentially giving them a break on their property taxes.

After that investigation, the state comptroller's office found that Chaffin's office had undervalued nearly 200 properties by $82 million, dating back to 2009. Many of those who benefited owned apartment complexes.

Both UCDD and Chaffin are now subjects on on-going criminal investigations, involving the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Members of the NewsChannel 5 Investigates team involved in the UCDD project were chief investigative reporter Phil Williams, producer Kevin Wisniewski and photojournalist Bryan Staples.

Investigative reporter Ben Hall, photojournalist Iain Montgomery and producer Kevin Wisniewski led the property assessor investigation.

Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. is a grassroots nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of investigative reporting.

The annual IRE Awards recognize outstanding investigative work. This year's awards will be presented at the 2013 IRE Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

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