Usually, the public comment period at the monthly meeting of the Oak Grove City Council consists of complaints about barking dogs, litter or sewer charges.

But when a young woman stood at the rear of the room at last month's meeting, she unleashed a bill of particulars against officials in this small town on the Kentucky-Tennessee border that made Peyton Place sound like a retirement community.

Tammy Papler, 31, began by acknowledging that she had been a madam in a house of prostitution here. But then she went on to tell a lurid tale of sex, murder and official corruption that has stunned the residents of Oak Grove, a tiny community at the doorstep of a huge Army base, Fort Campbell, and forced the Kentucky State Police to investigate.

Like a small-town version of Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, Papler told the council of a clientele that included policemen, doctors, lawyers and other prominent residents. She alleged that two of her "girls" were murdered by a pair of town police officers and -- in the biggest shocker of all -- pushed a member of the town council to reveal that she had once worked at Papler's house of ill-repute as a prostitute.

No one knows how much of what Papler said is true -- city officials have denied her allegations -- and she has changed her story several times. But Councilwoman Patty Belew, 26, now married into one of the town's leading families, admitted she worked for Papler when she was a single mother of two young children.

"I have admitted what I did -- I worked there for two years -- but the cops have not had to answer for their misconduct," said Belew, who has remained friends with Papler throughout. "I realize now that prostitution is detrimental and devastating to a woman's self-esteem. It's not a road in life you want to travel down."

Accusations of corruption are nothing new here. The sheriff's predecessor, Bill Dillard, and his chief deputy are serving time in federal prison on drug-related charges, and Mayor Bobby Mace recalls helping to close a brothel when he was an auxiliary policeman in the 1970s.

Oak Grove, an hour's drive northwest of Nashville, has a population of only 3,500, but it by no means resembles the tranquil small town of mid-America -- in looks or attitude.

Many of its residents are transients, living in trailer parks. Its main drag is busy U.S. 41, which is lined with pawn shops, used car lots and dozens of so-called adult entertainment emporiums -- strip joints, massage parlors, pornographic video shops and, allegedly, a brothel or two. Across the highway is Fort Campbell, home to 24,000 soldiers, their dependents and 4,000 civilian employees. The base's main component is the 101st Airborne Division, combat-ready paratroopers who regularly are dispatched to the world's hot spots. When they are at home, some of the Screaming Eagles look for local hot spots.

Papler, who admits to having worked as a hooker in Nashville, moved here five years ago and, encouraged by her husband, Ronnie, went into business for herself, renting space in the rear of a building that housed a Chinese restaurant.

Her New Life Massage Parlor competed for soldiers' entertainment dollars along with Fantasee Lingerie, Donna's Den, Tipper's Dance Club, Mona's Go-Go, Cat West and Classic Touch. The charge for various sexual services ranged from $45 to $125, with the Paplers retaining half of the take.

Belew was one of the first women Papler hired. A blond mother of two, she had followed a soldier here from Fort Gordon, Ga., only to be dumped by him shortly after their arrival. For a while, Belew tried to support her children as a waitress, but when she saw Papler's ad promising "big money" for unspecified duties, she applied.

Belew, interviewed in her mobile home here, said she worked at New Life for two years, earning as much as $1,500 a week. She quit when she married a local man and took a job in his family's business. Last November, Belew was elected to an open seat on the six-member council, even though she said many voters knew of her former occupation.

About two months after Papler opened New Life in March 1992, police raided it and charged her husband and three female employees with promoting prostitution, charges that were bargained down to misdemeanors with probation. Shortly after that, Papler told the town council and repeated in an interview, several of the town's police officers began demanding money and free sex in exchange for protection.

Police Chief Milton Perry confirmed Papler's assertion that she handed him $1,200 in cash in front of the town hall in late 1993. Initially, the chief said he took the money to buy police equipment, but later he conceded that all but $500 of it was spent on a Christmas dinner for his officers and their families. "Even today," Perry said recently, "I don't think it was wrong. I wasn't being bribed. She was in the mood of the Christmas spirit."

Her most persistent police customer, Papler told law enforcement officials and said in an interview, was Edward C. Carter, who she alleged promised her a hassle-free existence if she put him on her payroll and disguised the payments as janitorial services.

Papler agreed to the arrangement, and she said that over the next two years she made out checks to Carter for "cleaning services" that totaled $4,800 -- the receipts for which she has turned over to the sheriff in support of her charges of corruption.

Carter, who has left the police force, told officials that his wife actually worked at the establishment. But Papler said Carter's wife showed up once or twice "just to make it look good."

During the time that Papler was paying Carter, the police raided New Life but found only "half a dozen women sitting around drinking milk, dressed up like they were going to Sunday school," complained Mace.

Another attempt to close the parlor was botched when an undercover officer assigned to gather evidence paid $125 for oral sex from one of the women, police officials acknowledged.

But the relationship with Carter soured, Papler said, and she stopped paying him in May 1994. A few months later, two women -- Candida Belt, 22, and Gloria Ross, 18 -- were found killed in the back room of New Life, with multiple stab wounds and shots to the head. There had been no sign of forced entry.

At first the police assigned Carter and officer Leslie Duncan, who Papler has publicly said also frequented her establishment, to investigate. But the investigation went nowhere, with evidence lost and destroyed. Then it came out that Carter had been seen there a half hour before the slayings and soon Carter was a suspect. He was told to quit the force. Said Mace, "A policeman shouldn't be moonlighting in a whorehouse."

Duncan, at the urging of the mayor, quit the next spring, the mayor said in an interview.

Christian County Sheriff Tommy Scillian, who inherited the still-open investigation, said: "Carter made himself a suspect by working there. He was there 30 minutes before the murders. I questioned him three of four times, and his statements were inconsistent with what we know."

Although Carter and Duncan "are not the only suspects by any stretch of the imagination," the sheriff said, "on a scale of one to 10, with one being the most likely, Carter is a two or three." Although Duncan "made many, many errors on the double homicide," the sheriff attributed that to inexperience and said that Duncan is not a suspect.

The Kentucky State Police, meanwhile, have begun investigating the homicides and Papler's allegations of official bribery.

Carter's lawyer said he told his client, now working as a part-time security guard in Louisville, not to comment on the case. Duncan's lawyer did not return phone calls. Duncan now works as a security guard for a Nashville discount store.

Christian County prosecutor John L. Atkins said he is "reluctant to give {Papler's accusations} any credence." The prosecutor said local authorities conducted "a vigorous investigation of the murders, but unfortunately, none of the leads were very successful and none led to arrests."

Papler's massage parlor was shut down as a house of prostitution by authorities for good after the slayings, in the spring of 1995. She moved next door and opened Cherry Video, where a sign on the door warns that "store merchandise contains explicit sexual scenes and nudity. If this is offensive to you, please do not enter." Papler said she decided to "let the cat out of the bag" after the town council, in an effort to discourage sexually oriented businesses, tried to increase the annual license fee this summer for shops such as Papler's from $50 a year to $5,000. Papler is suing Oak Grove in federal court, contending that the huge increase in the business fee constitutes a violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech.

The disclosure of Patty Belew's infamous past does not appear to have hurt her political career.

Last week, at the first council meeting since Papler made her accusations, the atmosphere was "cordial, with a lot of jovial kidding" about the scandal, according to town attorney Michael L. Burman.

"Patty's never late for a meeting," said Mace, who said the only problem he can envision is that "because she's on the other side, when we go into executive session to consider litigation, she'll have to wait outside." CAPTION: Councilwoman Patty Belew, left, whose past as a prostitute was made public by her former boss, Tammy Papler, right, the former madam of a brothel and owner of video store in Oak Grove, Ky. Papler alleges police were involved in killings.