Cookeville, Tenn. -- Home of LitigationFest
2001® -- For more info, see our Commerce
and Tourism pages
action update -- Day 8 [April 13, 2001]
to establish constitutionally palatable process for Electric Department
is dismissed by Plaintiffs' lawyers
Proposed remedy would place
Cookeville City Manager Jim Shipley as contact for dispute, but he is not
'neutral and detached,' plaintiff's lawyer Samuel J. Harris suggests; City
officials refuse to comment on case; Herald-Citizen ignores story
for more than a week. Federal hearing to slap injunction on city is scheduled
for Monday. O'Mara, Rader rack up legal fees as they drag out process that
should have been resolved last year. City's
response to request for temporary order
Finish the poem,
and you could win a Putnam Pit T-Shirt
insurance lawyer Rader, may not be free of court order 'til later
They whine about
that, whine about this; but the requirements of law they continue to miss
don't matter, in this city; 'cause if they don't cough up we shut off their
of law' means there's gotta be a way, to say it isn't right before you
have to pay
he's Christian, cares about the Bible.
But it's the
Constitution's rules that will make his gov'ment liable.
If the Good
Book says, "Throw poor folks in the street" . . .
Finish the last
line and email it to
crisis -- Day 7
make a deal that lets Dan Rader and me get our fees but that lets the
city avoid paying damages for all the illegal acts it committed against
poor people while I was collecting $50,000 a year as part time city attorney
but not warning the city of this terrible mess I could have prevented,'
Cookeville City Attorney Mike O'Mara might have pleaded in so many words
in asking for a meeting on Wednesday with plaintiffs' lawyers to settle
restraining order issues. City may have to put up $5 million to avoid injunction,
lawyer says. Subscribers, Click here
to field utility termination calls at taxpayer expense
forced to deal -- Story
Advertise in The Putnam
Why is this
City has a process,
will work with customers to pay off bills, Shipley says
City Manager Jim Shipley told The Putnam Pit that utility customers
facing cutoffs cash can come to the municipal Building, 45 E. Broad St.,
and negotiate a pay-off schedule for delinquent bills. But when a government
doesn't notify customers of their right to appeal the government is violating
the customers' rights to "due process," the Supreme Court said 22 years
ago. The United States Supreme Court has found that when a utility fails
"to provide notice reasonably calculated to apprise respondents of the
availability of an administrative procedure to consider their complaint
of erroneous billing, [and fails] to afford them an opportunity to present
their complaint to a designated employee empowered to review disputed bills
and rectify error," the utility deprives the customers of an interest in
property without due process of law.
City Attorney Mike O'Mara has known
the city was in violation of the due process guarantees for more than six
months. In another case, Hargis
v. AAA Collections et al., the city sought to collect money from a
third party as a condition of continued utility service to a person who
did not owe the money.
Other civil rights cases
coming up naming City Manager Jim Shipley, Police Chief Bob Terry and the
City of Cookeville are listed here
judge grants TRO in C'ville class action civil rights suit -- April
Cookeville 'must be
restrained' from depriving constitutional guarantees to utility customers
than 550 electric, gas users were threatened with service cut offs between
Jan. 1 and March 22, 2001, records show
(April 8, 2001) -- U.S. District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. on Friday
ordered the City of Cookeville to stop depriving its utility customers
of their constitutional due process rights by slapping "arbitrary" fees
on them and shutting off their service without a hearing.
a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued in the case
Linda Gamble, et al. v. City of Cookeville, Haynes said that until
the city could defend itself at a full-blown hearing April 16, Cookeville
shut off gas, water and electric service without first notifying customers
at least seven days before terminating service;
off utility service without first providing customers with notice of the
procedure for disputing a bill and actually providing a dispute hearing;
a "neutral and detached hearing officer" with the customer able to have
an attorney present;
a customer to present testimony and documents, "confront and cross-examine
adverse witnesses, and allow an appeal to a higher authority so as to provide
a fair and impartial opportunity to be heard" and
J. Harris, one of three Cookeville lawyers who brought the class action
against the government, said that by giving the city 10 days' notice of
a hearing to oppose the TRO Judge Haynes was "giving them more due process
than they ever allowed their customers."
this was done the way the city collects money, we would have sent (City
Attorney Mike) O'Mara a bill and said we're going to cut off your procedure
after three days."
Putnam Pit offered City Manager Jim Shipley the opportunity to answer
questions about the case but he did not respond.
said the city threatened to shut of utilities of Plaintiff Ruby Copeland
for a 10-year-old bill it could not otherwise collect and which was unrelated
to the account in force at the time. Complaint.
doesn't take a great leap of logic to surmise that if utilities were cut
off in the winter, people endure hardship and sickness," Harris said. He
said those losing their utilities can also lose their homes under the health
code that prohibits, for example, living where there is no hot water.
think about what Christianity teaches us, that Christians believe that
innocent people shouldn't be kicked out in the street," he said.
client is mad."
A temporary restraining
order, or TRO, is an "emergency judicial remedy of brief duration which
may issue only in exceptional circumstances." Click
to read the order signed April 6 by District Judge William J. Haynes Jr