Lawyer advises city to change
Quick end possible in O'Mara,
Shipley civil rights case
Knoxville lawyer's suggestion that The Pit bypass
the city manager and get public documents directly from department heads
could save Cookeville $500,000 in punitive damages, but only if information
is actually provided in its entirety on the same day, and if the same conditions
apply to all other media
By CHRISTINE GRANT
Putnam Pit managing editor
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- The attorney representing Cookeville in
its second federal civil rights defense in the two years since T. Michael
O'Mara and Jim Shipley began calling the shots has made a suggestion that
could keep taxpayers' money in their pockets.
In a letter to Pit editor Geoff Davidian, attorney Robert H. Watson
Jr. said Davidian, and presumably others representing The Putnam
Pit, should bypass Shipley and get the information the paper has been
denied directly from department heads.
In a letter to Watson, Davidian said the city's willingness to stop
creating ann impediment to access to information could be a step
toward resolving the lawsuit, but he said that as a condition of settlement
the city would have to pay actual damages, legal fees and assure the newspaper
the policy would stay im place.
However, Davidian also said that the offer would be made only once, and
unless Watson agreed discovery would begin this week.
Watson, who also represents the city in another civil rights case arising
from allegations former Police Captain Wayne Bandy terrorized other police
officers, had not responded as of Sunday night.
The case was filed March 6, and notice was served on the city, Shipley
and O'Mara just after Cookeville Mayor Jean Davis finished her instructions*
that Davidian was not to say anything bad about the city council, officials
or staff. Davidian responded by announcing*
that while Davis was telling him what he could not speak about Pit
Systems Editor Michael Hodges served the city, the city manager and city
attorney with federal civil rights complaints claiming first amendment
Davidian offered to drop the case if the council would simply concede that
The Pit was the press for the sake of gaining access to records, but O'Mara
blocked that possibility by recommending that no one say anything without
consulting legal counsel.