Whirled spins Rupp Carter resignation


No surprise that the Whirled would heap praise on departing City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter. It was under her leadership that the City Attorney's office intervened in the 71st & Harvard F&M Bank zoning case, putting forth a far-fetched opinion regarding the deadline for protest petitions that contradicted the plain language of the city ordinance. (The publisher of the Whirled is the chairman of F&M Bancorporation.)

I am informed by a reliable source that the following sentence from Saturday's paper is misleading:

In January, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris ruled that a dispute over legal bills for work on the black officer's discrimination suit did not violate the state's budget laws.

Rereading the Whirled's story from January 10, it appears that Harris is saying only that the city only paid the Atlanta law firm what it had contracted with the firm to pay, and in that regard the law wasn't violated. The problem is that the law firm believed the city owed it for the additional work Rupp Carter had authorized beyond the contracted amount, and the firm sued the city to recover that additional amount. That was the issue raised by some city councilors in 2002 -- by obligating the city for money that had not been authorized, Rupp Carter had violated the Municipal Budget Act. In the end, the City had to pay $625,000 to settle the lawsuit. Perhaps because it is a legal settlement, it technically doesn't count as payment for unauthorized services, but that is effectively what that amount represents.

We understand that the OSBI report spells all this out and makes it clear that Rupp Carter is not blameless in her handling of the matter. We also understand that Rupp Carter's resignation comes within a day or two of renewed efforts to seek the release of that report.

It would be easy for public officials to let the matter go, as Rupp Carter is no longer going to be a city employee. That would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. Pursuing justice in the matter could deter future City Attorneys from treating the public and their elected officials with contempt. And not dealing with the outgoing City Attorney could come back to haunt us. So many Tulsans were relieved to see Susan Savage apparently leave public life, only to be appalled by her resurrection as Secretary of State. It would be a shame if, by failing to drive a stake through the career of Savage's jogging buddy, city officials allow her to "fail up" into a more prominent and influential position, after her legal advice cost the city and its taxpayers so much.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 24, 2004 2:21 AM.

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