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. . . then they confiscate property to pay themselves, then they drive home in government cars . . .
By GEOFF DAVIDIAN
Putnam Pit editor
Best known in the past for collecting more overtime than anyone on the city payroll, Cookeville police Chief Bob Terry now has a new claim to fame: he uses the city's computer system and Internet account to distribute pornographic images to other government employees, including District Attorney William Gibson, The Putnam Pit has learned.
During a Cookeville city council meeting Thursday, Feb. 17, the council was handed copies of email sent from Terry to Gibson and others, depicting a close-up graphic of a cigar in a woman's vagina and the words: The Monica Lewinsky Humidor . . . there's nothing like a good smoke after an Oval Office poke . . .
Two years ago, a city employee was fired for browsing to porno sites on city computer equipment, and Cookeville taxpayers have spent tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to keep secret what dozens of government employees do with their computers at work.
Testimony in January disclosed that City Manager Jim Shipley's computer operations manager was ordered to run from the building so he would not be present to provide records.
Meanwhile, the city has refused to allow remote access to its email system.
On Thursday, The council responded by lashing out at the messenger and avoiding the central issue: There is selective enforcement of laws and policies.
In another issue involving Terry, the city has refused to release records of a police department scandal stemming from transmission of sexual messages between a female city employee and the police chief.
The chief and the woman are not under investigation. But Sheila Holloway, a police department employee who discovered the messages and reported the abuse of city equipment, was named in an internal affairs inquiry. While the "investigation" continues, Terry can keep the record of his own sexual correspondence secret. The female employee whose correspondence via alphanumeric pager was discovered by Holloway, suddenly 'resigned' after Shipley reportedly told her, "either you or Terry has to go."
At Thursday's meeting, Councilman Steve Copeland asked: Can't you find one good thing to say about Cookeville?
The answer: "Well, you are a very forgiving community."
"Put that in your paper," Copeland said.
The Putnam Pit obtained the complete email system of the Cookeville government and has offered for months to meet with the council and share the information. On Thursday, council members denied they had been contacted or invited to meet, although Copeland acknowledged a meeting last year on unrelated topics. All electronic communication to council members is first filtered through Shipley's office.
After the meeting, Councilman Harold Jackson told The Pit's lawyer, Samuel J. Harris, that he has his "nose up (editor Geoff Davidian's) ass,” then attempted to have Harris arrested -- by Terry.