Family Collects Checks From Other UCDD Accounts

Family Collects Checks From Other UCDD Accounts

By Phil Williams. CREATED Mar 19, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- An internal investigation into the Upper Cumberland Development District appears to be nearing an end.

But, now, NewsChannel 5 Investigates has uncovered even more questions about checks written to UCDD executive director Wendy Askins' family and about furniture that no one can find.

All of this comes on a day that Knox County DA Randy Nichols was appointed as special prosecutor in the UCDD case.

For days, all that some folks have seen of UCDD's Wendy Askins has been photos on the wall of the agency's conference room.

But when we went to that million-dollar Living the Dream residence at the heart of the controversy, a worker insisted Askins wasn't there.

"Is she still living here?" we asked.

"They've moved out," the woman answered.

At Askins' own house, there was also no answer -- although there were signs that someone had indeed been moving.

Still, we had new questions about thousands of dollars in new checks that Askins wrote out of other UCDD accounts to her own family -- checks that the agency's acting director said he's still at a loss to explain.

"I don't know if anybody has the answers for you," Earl Carwile said.

"And you all have been trying to find out?" we asked.

He replied, "Everybody's been trying to find out."

Our NewsChannel 5 investigation first discovered how Askins put her whole family on the UCDD payroll.

But the latest checks were written from a sister agency, the Cumberland Regional Development Corporation.

One to her daughter, Anna, was for $1.950. Askins signed it, but it appears to have been endorsed back over to her.

Another one -- to her stepfather, Charles Blair -- was for $2,200. A handwritten note claims it was for a "fireplace insert" and a "big screen TV."

And a third -- to her mother, Barbara Blair -- was for $5,300. It was supposedly used to buy some used furniture from the mother. The check was endorsed back to the daughter.

"There was a bedroom suit," NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Carwile. "Any idea where that is?"

"No idea," he acknowledged.

"There was a cherry dinette set -- any idea where that is?" we continued.

"No," Carwile said.

"Then, there was a desk and a white doll cabinet," we noted. "Again, no idea?"

"No idea."

The receipt claims it was for something called Mount Vernon, a retirement home planned for Overton County that now exists on paper only.

"Mount Vernon is a piece of property," Carwile said.

But there's no facility that would need furniture?

"No, there's not facility there, no."

So we went back to Living the Dream to see if the furniture might be there. But when we asked to come inside, the worker refused.

"She (Askins) said any questions you have, just call her lawyer. So why do you just ask him?" the woman said, slamming the door in our face.

NewsChannel 5 did call Askins' lawyer. Jack Lowery said he's been told that the furniture is somewhere inside the UCDD organization, although he insisted he does not know where.

Wendy Askins was put on administrative leave three weeks ago while lawyers hired by UCDD conducted an internal investigation.

Those lawyers are expected to present their findings next week.

Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.