City Attorney T. Michael O'Mara's pay increased  from 35,953.50 in 1998, to $62,133.35 in 2000, but . . .
Bogus legal bills don't bug Cookeville's city manager
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (March 22, 2001) -- City Attorney T. Michael O'Mara continued to bill Cookeville taxpayers by the hour for months after he and Knoxville lawyer John Duffy neglected a case that they had agreed to settle last year.

The case, Geoffrey Davidian v. City of Cookeville, arose from allegations the city violated civil rights, breached a contract and trespassed against private property by accessing The Putnam Pit's web site without paying $20 for a license. Rather than pay, the city incurred thousands of dollars in legal fees.

But those fees should have stopped last year. The city filed a motion for summary judgment, but during the period plaintiff Davidian had to file in opposition the parties agreed that Davidian would not respond to the motion and would withdraw the complaint. Cookeville, in return, agreed through its lawyers to not seek costs and to prepare a petition stating there was a settlement. This would have ended any further expense by either party.

But rather than protect the city from further legal fees, O'Mara's bills show he and Duffy discussed the petition on Aug. 11, 2000, then sat on it and quietly allowed the period for plaintiff to respond to expire, at which time the court granted summary judgment. 

Instead of correcting the situation, Cookeville's lawyers sought to violate the terms of the agreement further by attempting to collect the costs they agreed to forgo on behalf of the city.

O'Mara also has billed the city for work he alleges was done in a case when no such work was done.  City Manager Jim Shipley says he will "probably not" spend more time trying to determine whether O'Mara and Duffy should be paid with public money. 

"What difference does it make what I say," Shipley said, "you'll just print whatever you want anyway." Shipley said he recalls either O'Mara or Duffy, or both, discussing dropping the attempt to collect the fees, but he said he was not told the lawyers had agreed to drop the costs in exchange for an agreement to not pursue the case. In a letter to Shipley, Duffy suggests that he is happy to inform Shipley that the summary judgment was granted, but does not say it was granted because the lawyers lied in an agreement then attempted to defraud the court by attempting to collect costs as though no agreement existed.

Duffy and O'Mara have made no effort to correct the record with the court, but taxpayers continue to pay while Duffy attempts to justify this fraud. Plaintiff Davidian is considering further action to correct the federal record.

Duffy was paid by the Tennessee Municipal League's Risk Management Pool, which covers the costs of all of the city's outside civil rights defense counsel. The TML's files are not public so it is not possible to determine whether Duffy and his law firm, Watson, Hollow & Reeves, also are billing that quasi-governmental agency for his time responding to inquiries and corresponding with O'Mara in matters arising from but unrelated to the closed case.