From Cookeville, Tenn. -- Home of the guys with a real little bit of political power who can't handle it
'Going where no dog has gone before -- and without a leash'

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How to cheat in federal court, Knoxville style . . .

All that money, and dirty tricks, too?

Watson & Hollow, Cookeville's Insurance Civil Rights defense firm that is bankrolled by the Tennessee Municipal League, gains advantage by misrepresenting facts to a federal judge in Hewitt v. Cookeville. Story


Watson, Hollow & Reeves

Knoxville law firm racks up tax dollars  on unnecessary paperwork, litigation

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 14, 2000) -- A Knoxville law firm representing Cookeville and several public officials is needlessly running up its bills to the Tennessee Municipal League's Risk Management Pool.

A Putnam Pit investigation has found Watson, Hollow & Reeves needlessly had documents prepared for a Supreme Court case when the court neither required nor wanted the firm to do so; unnecessarily hired a Cincinnati, Ohio, firm to print and bind the unnecessary documents into a 27-page booklet; then had the Ohio printer mail the unnecessary documents to parties to the case on Nov. 29, 2000 --  two days after the Supreme Court had acted in the firm's favor. Although the document shows the court had on Nov. 9, 2000, scheduled a conference on the petition for Nov. 22, Watson, Hollow & Reeves' brief was not mailed until a week after the conference, the postmark shows. Meanwhile, even though it wasn't necessary and was late, the Supreme Court has no record of receiving the material, Donald Baker, an assistant clerk at the court, said.

The TML's Risk Management Pool will not reveal how many firms like Watson, Hollow & Reeves are dipping into local treasuries, but waste, incompetence and neglect are visible even when the records are hidden.

In other words, taxpayers foot the bill to defend the officials who abuse them, and the records of the costs of defending those officials will not be released by TML's Risk Management Pool, says Dawn Crawford, the agency's chief financial officer.

By not releasing their records, TML's Risk Management Pool relies on  its board of directors to determine whether law firms are making the proper decisions and are delivering what they should. It also relies on the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasurer, Division of Municipal Audit. Dennis F. Dycus, director of municipal audit, said the audit looks at whether "an agency makes a fair presentation of its  financial data," but "not whether good decisions are made."

According to the TML's web site, the Risk Management Pool's board of directors is comprised of eight municipal employees or politicians eligible to be covered by the TML's insurance pool, a lawyer and the TML's president. They are:

  • Mayor Tommie Goodwin, Chairman of the Board, City of Trenton;
  • Mayor Frank Diggs, Vice-Chairman, City of Clinton;
  • Cindy Cameron Ogle, City Manager, City of Gatlinburg;
  • Samual (Sam) D. Tharpe, Vice-Mayor, City of Paris
  • Mayor Dan Speer, City of Pulaski;
  • Mayor John Johnson, City of Morristown;
  • Jay Johnson, City Administrator, City of Franklin;
  • Mayor Norman W. Rone, City of McMinnville;
  • President of the Tennessee Municipal League, Ex-Officio;
  • Ogden Stokes, General Council, Stokes & Bartholomewnoi..
  • In another case involving Watson, Hollow and Reeves, the firm submitted a motion for summary judgment that had to be answered within a specified time. Before the time elapsed, Watson, Hollow & Reeves negotiated an agreement with Cookeville attorney Samuel J. Harris in which Harris' client would withdraw a federal civil rights case against Cookeville if the city would agree to not seek costs of about $900. Watson, Hollow & Reeves told Harris the firm would draw up an order in the matter, but neglected to follow through. Harris did not answer the motion for summary judgment because Watson, Hollow & Reeves assured him they had an agreement. But when Watson, Hollow & Reeves neglected to produce the document, the court did not know an agreement had been reached and granted the summary judgment motion. Although it was their error, Watson, Hollow & Reeves told their client that they won the summary judgment motion and would collect the costs.

    The firm later agreed to not seek the costs but never set the record straight with the court.

    Both the Supreme Court case and the summary judgment matter could have been settled long ago without the legal expense, but Watson, Hollow & Reeves declined to settle. 

    Another case involving Cookeville goes to trial next October. In that case, Watson, Hollow & Reeves have argued unsuccessfully all the way to the U. S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. This case, involving the denial of a link to Cookeville's web site, could have been settled years ago without cost.

    Because the TML's Risk Management Pool is paying the bills and will not make them public, the taxpayers don't understand that they are in essence funding an incompetent battle against their own civil liberties.

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