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Walker Said Council Should Withdraw Investigation

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Walker Said Council Should Withdraw Investigation

Cookeville City Council will vote Thursday night to accept the investigation of Ricky Shelton’s hiring at Cookeville Regional.

Council Member Eric Walker said he thinks the council should go a step further.

“I do think that we should publicly acknowledge that we were able to conclude that through this investigation that Mayor Shelton didn’t violate any applicable city charter provision or state statutes,” Walker said. “But I think we do have to acknowledge that the scope of the investigation was limited and that the investigation could not address whether Mr. Shelton’s or CRMC’s process violated CRMC’s bylaws and that if this analysis is desirable, it must be undertaken by CRMC or its Board of Trustees.”

Walker said he wished the investigation had brought closure to the issue, but in his mind, it has not. However, he said it is clear that the City Council is not the body to continue looking into the matter.

“I personally feel like the city council should withdraw its investigation,” Walker said. “This is the second opinion by an attorney representing this council that has made it clear that the city council is not the appropriate governing body to address issues arising from operations of the hospital, including investigations of its employees or board members.”

City Attorney Dan Rader said he did not feel it appropriate to withdraw the investigation, since the work has been done. He suggested the council come up with language to close or terminate the investigation.

“I don’t think you can withdraw it because it’s basically completed unless you give this attorney another assignment,” Rader said. “And so you can’t like unbreak the eggs, so to speak. So I don’t know that withdrawing is the correct word you’re looking for. To conclude the matter is maybe a better approach.”

But Walker said he has a hard time concluding an investigation that the council did not have the authority to do in the first place.

Part of the issue, Walker said, confusion remains about the city’s role in Cookeville Regional’s operations. Rader said since 1999, the city does not have direct oversight of Cookeville Regional beyond ownership of its real estate and broad approval of its budget.

“The city really has no role in the management of the hospital unless the hospital is out of their budget and then the hospital, the city can take more control,” Rader said. “So I think that’s part of the misconception was that somehow this is this, quote, city owned hospital.”

City Manager James Mills said he had talked to all the council members other than Walker to see if they needed more from Attorney William Carver. Mills said the four members did not believe it necessary.


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