ALERT: "Vision 2025" bond contracts on the agenda tomorrow


The Tulsa County Industrial Authority (TCIA) will hold a special meeting tomorrow, Thursday, October 9, 11 a.m., in Room 315 of the County Administration Building, 6th & Denver, to approve contracts with attorneys and investment bankers to handle the sale of revenue bonds for the new county sales taxes (aka "Vision 2025"). The agenda reveals that the TCIA board (the three County Commissioners) have already decided who will get the contracts, and they will not use competitive bidding to ensure that the taxpayers get the best deal.

From the agenda, it appears that things are a bit different this time around, but it's still a behind-the-scenes-deal for the benefit of politically connected local firms. Ordinarily, all the county bond business goes to Hilborne & Weidman (bond counsel) and John Piercey of Leo Oppenheim & Co. (bond underwriting).

They get a piece of the action this time, too, but some of the work is going to the law firm of Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison, and Lewis and to Wells Nelson and Associates, the public finance affiliate of F&M Bank. Riggs Abney is the "retirement home" for a number of politicians: Mike Turpen (Attorney General), Gary Watts (City Councilor and 2002 mayoral nominee), David Riggs (State Senator). Riggs Abney partner Jim Orbison is very tightly connected to the county machine. He's been on the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority since 1983 and has done legal work for other County trusts.

When the County Commissioners meet as the TCIA they meet in a small room on the 3rd floor. They aren't used to having a big crowd for meetings, and they regularly cancel the scheduled regular meeting, then schedule a special meeting on short notice. Tulsa County taxpayers need to let the Commissioners know we are concerned about getting good value for the billion dollars we've given them to play with. That begins by getting the best deal on the issuance of revenue bonds, and that means putting it out for competitive bids and advertising the opportunity far and wide, for example with specialist media outlets like The Bond Buyer. (If you register, you can read Requests for Proposals that other cities, counties, and trusts have put out to attract competitive bids for financial services.) It might make sense to give sole source contracts on small bond jobs, but when you're borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars, even small differences in interest rates and commissions can mean millions of dollars to the bottom line. Let's show up tomorrow at 11 and politely ask our County Commissioners to do the right thing.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 8, 2003 11:42 AM.

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