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How to cheat in federal court,
Knoxville style . . .
All that money, and dirty
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.
Hollow & Reeves
Knoxville law firm racks up
tax dollars on unnecessary paperwork, litigation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Dec. 14,
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,
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
Jay Johnson, City Administrator,
City of Franklin;
Mayor Norman W. Rone, City of
President of the Tennessee Municipal
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.
to The Putnam Pit