But the decisions could cost the city more in legal fees by the time it gets to court than it would have cost to provide the records. If it goes to court, O'Mara will continue to make $125 an hour to defend the position.
At issue is whether the city's records, maintained in an electronic data base, are public records under the state Open Records Law.
The city claims it will give the records on computer print outs, or will allow access to the computer terminals for viewing the data at city hall. But O'Mara said in a fax to The Pit on Wednesday, July 9, that the city was not obliged to give the press the data in electronic form on diskettes or tape. O'Mara apparently finds some benefit in this position for the city separate from the personal benefit accruing to him at $125 an hour that he will bill to paxpayers.
The Putnam Pit's position is that the records will be cheaper to access electorically, are more useful as a data base, would require less employee time to fulfill records requests and would be more accurate.
The accuracy argument will be hard for O'Mara to refute.
The same day O'Mara stated the city would provide public records on paper, The Pit learned that police records turned over under an open records request to The Pit on paper were incorrect. The files the city provided falsely documented that certain persons were scofflaws and owed money for overdue parking violations when in fact they had none, and among those so named -- O'Mara himself, a general sessions judge, a court clerk, a county clerk, several lawyers, a deputy sheriff and others. The records, obtained last week, stated that O'Mara had two unpaid tickets of the seven he received for ignoring the city's parking ordinances. O'Mara, who in 1995 made nearly $10,000 prosecuting a single traffic ticket in the city court, does not pay his own tickets, according the the public records O'Mara wants The Putnam Pit to be content with.
The Pit has consistently asked for the records on diskette so there will be no problems with the accuracy of the data, a problem the city has had since before the birth of this news organization.
"It is obvious the city of Cookeville has the evil intent of feeding The Putnam Pit false information so we are discredited," said Geoff Davidian, the paper's editor.
"It is unbelievable that the city council would rehire this man after all the expense and trouble he has caused Cookeville with the little authority he has. His advice has landed the city in federal court on civil rights cases, and the city has paid the legal fees of those who take it to court to force access to public records."