Cookeville refuses access to Bob Terry's expenses

Editor, The Putnam Pit

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. - When candidates to succeed Bill Benson as Cookeville's chief of police submitted their applications and resumes, the winner squeaked through with less scrutiny than the others.

Sergeant Bob Terry, King of the self-authorized overtime, was on paper a mixed bag of slight formal education and extensive on-the-job training. His application states he went to 21 training classes between February 1990 and April 1998. One Terry supporter, Councilman Steve Copeland, said he had a "gut feeling" about Terry, who headed District Attorney General Bill Gibson's Drug Task Force for years while on the city payroll as a police sergeant. True, The Putnam Pit reported before his appointment that Terry ran up staggering overtime while director of the Task Force -- never mind other city directors are salaried and work however long it takes to do the job, and never mind other municipalities did not pay overtime for Task Force members.

Terry charged the city for overtime during the very same pay periods the government was footing the bill for his trips to the classes.

Although the city was to be "reimbursed" for the overtime according to an "unwritten" understanding with the task force, the payments were few, far between and partial. When The Pit asked why the city wasn't reimbursed, Terry said he would handle it. He handled it by stopping billing for overtime, according to city Finance Director Stephanie Miller.

Early this year, The Putnam Pit asked for documents supporting Terry's claim he attended these training sessions, since they are all he had going for him as an applicant for chief.

The Pit wanted to see the expense vouchers he submitted on his return; his hotel bills, food bills, liquor bills, if any, appearing on his expenses; number of people staying in his room.

Cookeville did not turn over one document, stating the Drug Task Force paid. Terry told City Manager Jim Shipley's office he would get the documents from the Task Force. He never did.

Finally, Shipley's assistant, Gail Fowler, said that she obtained the documents from the Drug Task. Putnam Pit editor Geoff Davidian notified Fowler he would be in Cookeville Wednesday and wanted to see the records he had requested.

Fowler did not answer, and when he flew from Chicago to Nashville, then rented a car and drove to City Hall, both Shipley and Fowler were absent. No one had the records.

This is why the city has civil rights cases tax payers bankroll.

The city apparently is willing to face yet another suit in order to hide the truth about Bob Terry's background.

Oh, well. As long as taxpayers support this, they will continue to do it. The bill is more than $100,000 already.