Overflow Crowd Attends UCDD Special Meeting
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- It was far cry from past board meetings when few from the public cared to attend.
On this day, people from across Middle Tennessee crammed into a small meeting room to see how the board would react to the spending uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The overflow crowd literally stood over the seated board members as the special meeting came to order.
Board chair Mike Foster warned the crowd to not to interrupt.
"If the audience wishes to stay, they will remain silent or be asked to leave immediately," Foster said.
The crowd then watched as the board voted to put executive director Wendy Askins on administrative leave and as the organization's auditor walked out.
Randall Killman drove in from Clay County and recorded the meeting on his cell phone so that he could take information back to the Clay County Industrial Board.
"I'm just trying to get some information about what is going on," Killman said.
Others, like L.D. Herron, had been to board meetings before.
Herron confronted board members at the last meeting, earlier this month, about what he called lavish spending by Askins.
He was disappointed that the board said he was wrong to question Askins.
"Turns out it was board that was wrong," Herron said. "They may be nice people, but they were not doing their job. They absolutely, some of them were, protecting Wendy Askins."
Many in the crowd were county officials from surrounding areas that are supposed to get money from the Upper Cumberland Development District to help the poor.
Smith County commissioner Frank Woodard wished the board had gone further.
"I think she ought to be moved out or whatever. If she's done corrupt she ought to pay for it," Woodard said.
At one point, the police were outside the meeting, but they never needed to come inside.
For many, the bottom line was that public money, which should have helped people in need, was spent in ways that didn't help the poor.
Some predicted it would be a while before the organization has another quiet board meeting that few from the public care to attend.