The former general manager of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation was arrested and convicted on a DUI charge while driving a company vehicle, but never faced discipline from the company, the News4 I-team has learned.
James Coode, the former GM, was never suspended or disciplined for the incident. He retired from his job 2-1/2 years later.
Most people don’t think about our local electric company until the bill spikes or the power goes out. If you’re a member of an electric co-op, and one of every three Tennesseans is, you own and manage your co-op.
The agency's Chairman of the Board of Directors told News4 Coode never told the board about the DUI.
However, Coode’s second in command said he knew, and also knew that Coode had a court-ordered interlock device installed in his company-owned car.
Coode wasn’t the only Cumberland Electric executive charged with driving drunk in a co-op owned vehicle.
Cumberland Electric's former safety director was also arrested on a DUI charge.
Both men were allowed to retire.
Coode was arrested Dec. 23, 2015, in Brentwood. He was convicted on April 21, 2017, after a jury trial in Williamson County. Coode served two days in jail.
As a condition of getting a restricted driver license, the judge ordered Coode to have an ignition interlock in his car. It’s a device that won’t let the car start unless the driver blows into a tube to prove he has no alcohol in his system.
The chairman of Cumberland’s board of directors said that he only learned of Coode’s DUI when he was about to retire in June 2018.
"I heard it just a few days before his retirement. It happened sometime earlier than that but I didn’t know anything about it," Tommy Whittaker said.
"It’s very unfortunate he did that, it’s also unfortunate that he didn’t tell us about it," Whittaker said.
Chris Davis is the general manager at Cumberland Electric now. Coode was his boss at the time.
Davis told News4 that he learned of Coode’s arrest in the fall of 2016 but didn’t tell the board.
He and Coode were friends, Davis said, and Coode was also his boss.
"I didn’t think it was my place. I think that was his decision to tell the board if that’s what he chose to do," Davis said.
Davis also said he was also aware of the court-ordered ignition interlock that was installed on the car owned by Cumberland Electric.
"I knew that that device was in the car, yes."
"I'm surprised that you didn’t think it was important to tell the board that," News4's Nancy Amons said.
"Again, I didn’t think it was my place to divulge that information to the board. I think it was his," Davis said.
Coode wasn't the only Cumberland official arrested for drinking and driving in a company car.
So was safety director Charles "Chip" Miller was arrested for DUI in Robertson County on Dec. 13, 2018.
The police report said he had two guns in his car.
Miller retired immediately. His case is scheduled for court on July 1.
Coode verified to News 4 that he did not tell the board about his DUI. He declined to add any details.
Cumberland Electric's policy makes it clear that operating a co-op vehicle under the influence violates safety rules and could result in discharge.
There was no discipline in Coode's case.
Bill Prettyman is a retired colonel and a Cumberland Electric customer.
"I just find that incredible. I mean, what other corporation does that?" he asked.
Coode retired in June 2018, his 40+-year career celebrated in the company newsletter.
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