City's financial desperation leads to more legal woes

Cookeville's electric service, already the cause of one federal lawsuit, could be in for another shock

More than 550 customers of Cookeville's Electric Department were threatened with discontinued service between Jan. 1 and March 22 this year -- meaning a loss of heat and in some cases, loss of home. City Manager Jim Shipley told The Putnam Pit that those short of cash can come to the municipal Building, 45 E. Broad St., and negotiate a pay-off schedule for delinquent bills, but because the city doesn't notify customers of their right to appeal the government is violating the customers' rights to "due process." The United States Supreme Court has found that when a utility fails "to provide notice reasonably calculated to apprise respondents of the availability of an administrative procedure to consider their complaint of erroneous billing, [and fails] to afford them an opportunity to present their complaint to a designated employee empowered to review disputed bills and rectify error," the utility deprives the customers of an interest in property without due process of law.