Randy Sullivan is no longer a City Councilor


The Tulsa Whirled reported today that City Council Chairman Randy Sullivan does not live in the district he was elected to represent. While he is still registered to vote at the home of his wife, which is in the district, he has, since December 2003, when his wife apparently gave him the boot, been living in a condominium at 37th & Riverside Drive, in Council District 9, which is represented by Susan Neal.

Randy Sullivan seems to have a problem with the idea of geographical representation. You will recall that Randy was wooed in a hot tub by former Tulsa City Councilor John Benjamin (now a resident of Bixby) to run against Todd Huston, then the councilor for District 8, in the 2002 election. Later Randy discovered that he did not live in District 8, but was in District 7. It was that kind of alertness to public affairs that made him the ideal choice for the Tulsa Whirled's endorsement. The last thing they want on the Council is someone devoted to promoting the interests of the people who elected him. Someone ignorant of the district he represents must be nearly perfect in their eyes. The Council is supposed to be doing their bidding, dadgum it!

On December 1, 2003, Randy Sullivan was apparently asked to remove himself from his place of residence. His district offers a number of residential options, but perhaps he is not that familiar with the district. There are many apartment complexes of varying cost. There are many homes, some of which are for sale. There are a few hotels and inns. There are even condominiums. Surely, if he staying in the district mattered to him he could have found a way to make it work.

Why did he choose to move out of the district?

Sullivan, 48, said he chose the location instead of one in his district because it is close to River Parks, where he likes to exercise.

So what can be done about it? The Whirled story says that the City Charter doesn't require Councilors to be residents, and indeed the Charter only requires (Article 6, Section 7) that a Councilor must have been a qualified elector of the district 90 days prior to filing for office.

So why do I say Sullivan is no longer a City Councilor? State law is quite clear.

Title 51, Section 8 of the Oklahoma Statutes says this:

Every office shall become vacant on the happening of any one of the following events before the expiration of the term of such office:


Fourth. Ceasing to be a resident of the state, county, township, city or town, or of any district thereof, in which the duties of his office are to be exercised or for which he may have been elected or appointed.


The fact by reason whereof the vacancy arises shall be determined by the authority authorized to fill such vacancy.

The authority in this case is the City Council. Article 2, Section 6.1 of the City Charter says:

SECTION 6.1 JUDGE OF QUALIFICATIONS. The Council shall be the judge of the qualifications of its members and for such purposes shall have the power to subpoena witnesses and require the production of records. The decisions of the Council in such cases shall be subject to review by appropriate actions in courts of competent jurisdiction which shall be commenced within ten (10) days after a final decision by the Council.

Although there is no love lost between the majority on the Council and Mr. Sullivan, they will be understandably reluctant to act, particularly under the shadow of the recall. The ringleaders of the recall do not live in the districts of Councilors Medlock and Mautino -- in some cases they don't even live in Tulsa -- and there is something unseemly about outsiders interfering with the choice made by the voters of a district.

Nevertheless, the Council alone has the authority to make the determination that Mr. Sullivan no longer resides in the district and therefore the seat is vacant. In the interest of preserving the principle of representative government, they must do so, now that he has admitted that he no longer resides in the district.

If the Council acts soon enough, before March 14, one year before the next general election, the voters of the district would have the opportunity to choose a replacement; otherwise a majority of the remaining eight councilors would elect a replacement.

The Council will find it easier to do their duty if a sufficient number of District 7 residents express their concern about the situation.

If the Council refuses to do its duty, recall is another option, and it may be trivially easy to make it happen. But it would be better if the Council simply followed the law.

Not all representative governments have the attachment to geographical representation that we do. British Members of Parliament have traditionally been residents of London with no necessary attachment to their own constituencies. But even in Britain this has been changing, with local party boards choosing the candidate who will stand in their constituency, and increasingly choosing someone with local roots.

In America we cherish geographical representation, which is why we consider gerrymandering an outrage and why our congressmen and senators make a point of telling us they spend their weekends back home. We want our representatives to be truly representative of us -- people who live where we live and experience the challenges we know.

One last thing: The Whirled story quotes Randy Sullivan as saying that his Republican primary opponent, John Eagleton, made an issue of Sullivan's place of residence in the 2004 election. As far as I am aware, that is untrue. I was involved in John Eagleton's campaign, and the material I saw was positive and focused on John's qualities and his vision for Tulsa. I saw nothing regarding Sullivan's place of residence or his divorce, although the situation was well known to the Eagleton campaign.

In fact, Sullivan himself did not list his wife's house as his address when he filed for reelection. He listed his office address, instead. The Whirled might have picked up on this, had they not already been committed to supporting his reelection in gratitude for his carrying the water on the F&M Bank 71st and Harvard rezoning.

Here's the question: Sullivan's divorce has been common knowledge around City Hall for over a year. Because of that, it has been widely supposed that he no longer lived in his district, and certainly a newspaper with the resources of the Tulsa Whirled could have done some digging and reported this issue a long time ago. I assume they haven't covered it before because he's one of their guys. Why are they reporting it now?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 13, 2005 10:42 PM.

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