COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- Cookeville city government has been pouring money into legal expenses incurred in a frantic, incompetent, costly and losing campaign to exclude the public from its business.
Who's making the money? City Attorney T. Michael O'Mara, for one -- the same person whose advice has been a common denominator in four of the five federal civil rights cases the city is facing. Great deal -- give stoopud advice at $125 an hour, make $125 trying to correct the problems the stoopud advice caused. The stoopuder the advice, the more tax money O'Mara ultimately earns. And he's making plenty.
In addition to the more than $100,000 plus benefits O'Mara has made from the city since assuming his part-time job in 1995, another $110,000 or so in tax money is being paid to the Tennessee Municipal League to defend the city's positions in four civil rights cases filed since O'Mara has been the city's legal advisor.
Meanwhile, O'Mara is embroiled in a state lawsuit alleging he was negligent as the lawyer for Doyle Shirt Manufacturing, which lost $600,000 because of a missed deadline. Lucky for O'Mara and his malpractice lawyers, Doyle's owner filed suit on his own behalf when he could find no other Cookeville lawyer to take the case, a violation of state law which says a corporation must be represented by a lawyer. Doyle is appealing, questioning the fairness of the law.
Everywhere, or so it seems, the public record shows money is flowing away from O'Mara's clients while O'Mara is making more than any city attorney in the history of Cookeville. Because he is Cookeville city attorney, O'Mara is your lawyer, and money is flowing away from you, too.
In one of the cases against Cookeville bureaucrats, brought by this writer, the city is paying tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees after it refused to provide access, despite the state and city laws, to public records because they complain they were 'inundated' with public records requests that required 6.5 hours of employee time to fill over a 14-month period. They called this average of six minutes a week "harassing" and "bothersome." According to their own legal documents, the alleged cost of spending 6.5 hours opening records was less that $3,000, which we think is absurd -- who makes $400-plus an hour photocopying records? [According to their own records, one poor wretch spent 30 itsy-bitsy minutes photocopying five consecutive pages from a loose-leaf notebook.] Without discussing the competence of the photocopier operator, the city is spending 20 times the cost of providing information to fight having to provide it. Meanwhile, what records and information we are able to find show that City Manager Jim Shipley has been whiling away the hours on personal long-distance phone calls -- nearly 10 hours in one year, while another department head is selling baseball cards over the city's computer network and Internet account.
If you are not angered by this, take that Confederate flag off your front license plate holder and submit to the bureaucratic sloth. Don't kid yourself into thinking you are part of some Southern Heritage that is identified by valiant battles and character.
You are either a spineless wimp or blind. It is not possible to be a rebel and at the same time support the blatant corruption that the entire nation now knows characterizes the Cookeville political establishment.
What are you going to do about it?