Cook Responds

When I retired in April, 2007, I wrote to the citizens on this site that I was retiring from the City with 30 years of service.  In that correspondence, I told that I did not want to work with dishonest people in City Hall.  Before I retired, Terry Vann went to Dale Hurst and asked him if I would resign the office of City Court Clerk.  He wanted me to appoint one of the deputy clerks in my office.  I told Dale Hurst that I could not do that without the people changing the charter and being the court clerk was my responsibility handed down to me by the Charter. 

In the next couple of weeks, Terry Vann appeared before the City Council waving a report around saying that I had not collected fines.  I knew that report was generated in my office by one of my clerks.  I asked the clerk to run the same report for me and she refused to do so.  One clerk decided she would do it for me. The balances were over $100,000 short from what was originally given out at the council meeting in February 2007 by Vann.  When I approached the ladies in my office, I asked if the person responsible for doing the original report would run me the same report.  The other clerks would not admit to me who ran the report and again refused to do the same report for me. A computer report will only tell you what was generated if you push the buttons to report it.  Finally one of the girls ran the report and it was still short of the figures that Terry Vann reported. 

When I went into the system, there were numerous pages of violators and their fines listed.  I would pick a person on the report and check it against the receipting.  There I would find receipts for payments paid in full on the fines.  I found fines that had been dismissed by the judge. I found people who had died that were paying on fines until they passed away. (hard to collect those)  I found people that had plea bargained with the judge to donate to his organization.  I found people that had made arrangements to make payments on the fines until they were paid in full and they were still paying on the fines.  I found people that their fines had been sent to the State of Tennessee Department of Safety to have their fines collected or risk having their driver's license cancelled. I found people that were awaiting court and had not been ordered to pay a fine but the full amount of the fine was on the report.  

There were letters written if they did not appear, there were mittimus ordered by the Judge, and I would send out rearrest orders on violators if they did not come to court.  I tried to collect all fines and the deputy clerks knew how important this was to me.  This report that Vann was waving around, was a fictitious report generated by the two of the deputy clerks that now hold the job that I was elected to.  They did a report that had everyone that had ever gotten a ticket or had been arrested in Lenoir City for 10 years. (when the court docket went on the computer system) with the original fine amounts.  There were no payments included on this report or no disposition to what happened with the original amount of the fine such as driver's license cancelled, payments made, mittimus to jail, people died while paying, dismissed by the judge,  whatever.  This information was found on the receipting system that kept up with balances and dispositions and not on the report that Vann presented to council. 

When I retired from the City, I asked the mayor and city council to have the auditor come into the office and audit the bank accounts to make sure there were no discrepancies. This was done when I took the office in 1995 to protect the retiring city recorder-treasurer and myself.  The management refused to do so.  I did not get to look at the findings of the July 1, 2006-June 30, 2007 audit report which would have included a write-up by the auditor report concerning uncollected fines, but I am sure there were no such findings included in that audit.  It is note worthy that fines had almost tripled in the last year I was there, but Terry Vann accused me of not collecting the fines.

There was a very intense audit by the State Comptroller's office in 1996, but there was no finding such as non collection of fines.  The private auditors of the City never had such a finding the 12 years that I served in the capacity of City Recorder-Treasurer.  What I am trying to say to the people, is that there was a lie told about me because Terry Vann wanted control of my office.  For reasons I will never understand.  Was he mad because I had to produce records for the TBI and Comptroller's office when they visited my office to investigate the Friends of Law Enforcement that Terry Vann organized? I had to do my duty and produce these records or I would have been in a lot of trouble. 

All I know is that he had my deputy clerks generate a fictitious report and convince his friends on city council that I was guilty of things that did not happen.  I did not resign my office; I retired after 30 years of service to our community. I did the very best I could do at City Hall, but sometimes you can't fight city hall when the cards are stacked against you.  My health could not stand the emotions of Judge Vann embarrassing me at the city council meetings with lies and slander. It's not surprising that the clerks who generated his little report have now been promoted to the two jobs that I was responsible for.  Isn't it odd how the mayor wants to appoint the city recorder-treasurer and Vann wants to appoint the city court clerk?  They had to conspire against me to even have the opening to do so. 

Van Shaver did an investigation on the report generated by the clerks of my office and found that the same discrepancies that I had found, but could not look at the actual receipts on these fines. He reported this on his web site in 2007.  I have no reason to lie about any of this.  There is so much more about my retirement I could go into, but I will not.  I left the city with no guilty feelings.  If I could have survived the stress, I would have still been there until my term was finished.  I had planned to retire when that happened. Some couldn't wait until November of 2008 and decided to lie and cheat to take over.  All that I was guilty of was not letting things happen that could have gotten them in trouble with audit, etc.  I also respected my oath of office when I said that I would uphold the Lenoir City Charter, Ordinances, and the laws of the State of Tennessee. A few did not like my opinions on different incidents concerning expenditures and how they should be dealt with by the IRS, Comptroller's office, and our actual purchasing policies. Even though it was my job to do so,  I made enemies there by protesting or not doing things their way. 

For over a year, I thought I would be silent about the lies and just forget what had happened to me.  It seems they are still slandering me and I felt I should say how I felt about all of this.  Again, I thank you for the opportunity.
Debbie Cook