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    Cookeville employee says he was sent running from city hall to thwart records request
    COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- While repeatedly stating its records were open for inspection, the city secretly and illegally ordered an employee to run out of the municipal building to prohibit access.

    In a deposition Jan. 26, Steve Corder, Cookeville's manager of computer operations, said he was told to leave city hall "at least once" by either Gail Fowler, City Manager Jim Shipley's assistant, or Jeff Littrell, Corder's supervisor. Littrell is director of the city's Department of Planning and Codes.

    The Putnam Pit sued Cookeville two years ago, claiming Shipley and the city obstructed the exercise of free speech and free press, and that the city discriminated against The Pit because of its content. In the complaint, the plaintiffs pointed to the city's denial of access to parking citation records. The city claimed employees overseeing the files would not be at work that day. However, on the specified day The Pit found the employees at work, but they denied access nevertheless.

    A federal judge granted the government summary judgment in the case, ruling that a one-time denial of records did not rise to a civil rights violation.

    However, Corder's testimony is new evidence showing the city was engaged in a pattern of denial.

    On Feb. 10, lawyers for The Putnam Pit and its editor, Geoff Davidian, filed motions in U.S. District Court in Nashville, and in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, asking for the cases to be remanded in light of the new evidence.

    Cookeville is named in three federal civil rights cases brought by Davidian and The Putnam Pit arising out of Shipley's conduct since assuming his job.

    City Attorney T. Michael O'Mara, the architect of the city's legal posture toward The Pit, also is named in one of the cases.