Councilors, this is a test

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I hope Tulsans will show up at tonight's City Council meetings (at 5 in room 201 of the City Hall tower and 6 in the Council chamber) to voice their objections to Mayor Kathy Taylor's capitulation in the Great Plains Airlines lawsuit and to urge councilors to reject payment of the $7.1 million settlement to Bank of Oklahoma.

You know how think-tanks and political action committees put out report cards? They base their "grades" of legislators on certain key votes, which are usually announced in advance.

I'm announcing today that tonight's vote on authorizing payment of $7.1 million from the sinking fund is a report-card vote. I consider this vote a test of a councilor's integrity and political courage. I will weigh this vote heavily when considering whether to endorse that councilor's ambitions for re-election or higher office. I won't say a "yes" vote is an automatic disqualification, but a councilor who votes "yes" will have to redeem himself in some spectacular and sacrificial way in the future to earn my support. I prefer to support only those candidates who have demonstrated backbone and a willingness to do the right thing in the face of pressure from the wealthy and powerful.

It was illegal three years ago for the City to intervene and pay off the debt which is not owed by the city, but by a bankrupt airline and secured by a trust; the City was not a part of the lawsuit. Adding the City to the lawsuit on a bogus equitable claim of "unjust enrichment," a claim easily defeated because the City of Tulsa was not enriched, unjustly or otherwise, doesn't make paying that $7.1 million any more legal. It only adds conspiracy to misappropriation of funds.

The City of Tulsa doesn't owe this money to BOk, and paying it is against the law. The Mayor and the City Attorney and any councilor that votes in favor of tonight's resolution will be personally exposed to a qui tam action filed by taxpayers under 62 O.S. §372 and §373.

The law provides for a triple penalty. For authorizing the unlawful transfer of $7.1 million, Mayor Taylor would have to pay $21.3 million. She might have to sell her house and park her Bentley at a trailer park for a place to live. Or perhaps she can camp out in her Learjet.

If you're having trouble understanding why this payment is immoral and illegal, follow me in this thought experiment.

Imagine I'm having coffee with Mayor Taylor one day, and she remarks, "You seem sad, Michael. What's wrong?"

"I lent someone $7,000 to help start a new business. The business went broke. I sued the guy, but he doesn't have any money. Another guy cosigned the loan and pledged some collateral, but it turns out he doesn't really own the property, so he can't cover the loan either. I should have known the collateral wasn't his, but I didn't think about it before I lent him the money. Anyway, looks like I'm out seven grand."

"I think I can help you, Michael. Just add the City as a defendant to your lawsuit."

"But the City isn't involved...."

"Doesn't matter. You're my friend, and I can help you. Just file an amended petition against the city, cite any old grounds -- make something up. I'll direct the City Attorney to settle out of court for the full amount. The Council will have to approve taking the money out of the sinking fund, but they're pushovers. They don't like to give the newspaper an excuse to call them bickering obstructionists."

"Won't that raise our property taxes?"

"You know, Michael, it's just pennies per taxpayer, and you're such a valuable asset to our community, you deserve it."

Do you believe that would happen for someone like me? Would it be just? Would it be legal? Of course not. But that's exactly what Kathy Taylor is doing for the Bank of Oklahoma, but for $7,100,000 instead of $7,000.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor appears to be colluding in a lawsuit against the financial interests of the citizens of Tulsa. She is probably doing this to cover the posterior of the BOk executives responsible for making this bad loan. (As bond trustees for TAIT, BOk was well aware -- or should have been -- of the covenants and restrictions on TAIT's assets and income.)

Tulsa taxpayers have already suffered financially from Great Plains. The transferable tax credits used to finance the airline were repaid to the state treasury through our gasoline taxes, meaning less money to fix our roads and bridges. BOk purchased $18 million worth of those tax credits from Great Plains for $15 million. $3 million in free money -- sweet.

Most councilors will find it very hard to vote no. That's why I consider this vote a measure of integrity and political courage.

David Patrick, Bill Martinson, Dennis Troyer, Bill Christiansen, and G. T. Bynum all received contributions from BOk officers this cycle. Those who were on the ballot in 2006 (all but Bynum) also received BOk backing then. Jack Henderson received $1,000 support from George Kaiser and BOk Financial Corp. PAC during the 2006 cycle, but BOk VP Dan Ellinor backed Henderson's opponent Emanuel Lewis this time around. Only Rick Westcott, John Eagleton, and Eric Gomez do not appear to have received any BOk-related contributions, and in fact, Kaiser and BOKF PAC backed Eagleton's and Westcott's opponents in 2006, and Kaiser contributed to Gomez's opponent this year.

UPDATE: Mayor Taylor was present at the beginning of the meeting, but scrammed before this item came up. The resolution passed by a 5-2 vote. Eagleton, Westcott, Martinson, Patrick, and Gomez voted yes. Henderson and Troyer voted no. Christiansen, as an airport tenant, recused himself. Bynum recused himself, I presume because his grandfather, Robert J. LaFortune, is on the board of BOk. (A grandfather is within two degrees of consanguinity, the standard for the City of Tulsa ethics ordinance.) The "emergency clause," which would cause the payment to be authorized immediately rather than in 30 days, received a 5-2 vote as well, but needed 6 votes to pass.

Eagleton and Westcott objected to the settlement that the Mayor had reached, but they had been advised by the City Council's attorney, Drew Rees, that authorizing payment of the settlement from the sinking fund was a "ministerial" duty, and they had no discretion in the matter. Voting no could subject them to personal liability. (This two-page document from Pennsylvania has a good, brief explanation of ministerial act.)

Rees told me after the pre-meeting that the councilors were not putting themselves at risk of a qui tam action by voting for this, because they had no discretion. Only the official who had the discretion to agree to a settlement involving an unlawful disbursement of funds would be subject to qui tam.

I still would have voted no, despite the risk, and would have asked my fellow councilors for a resolution to seek an injunction against the Mayor's settlement. I don't know if it is possible to enjoin payment of the settlement at this point, but the Council ought at least to express their disapproval formally, perhaps with a censure resolution.

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17 Comments

JW said:

If I ever do witness you and KKT sipping coffee together at Shades of Brown I will then know that the world is coming to and end and I'll patiently await rapture.

I actually want her to do this, because I want her sued and put out of office and this may be the only way to do it. It would be much easier than starting a recall process.

city employee said:

This kinda pisses me off.
I could do a hell of a lot of work with $7 million.

Mark Author Profile Page said:

Wow! My jaw just hit the floor. This one stinks all the way to Connecticut. I thought I'd seen it all here in New England; but this Kathy Taylor has just raised the national bar for cronyism.

Amazing that a lawsuit that was essentially an afterthought gets "settled" for almost 100 cents on the dollar.

Does your Mayor really have the unilateral authority to settle a $7 million lawsuit without the approval of the Council?

Is the Council's role really limited to approving a means of payment for stipulated judgments the Mayor, in her sole discretion, negotiates?

What happens if the Council doesn't approve payment? Since there's already a judgment, can BOK start executing on the City's property (seizing Public Works assets, etc.)?

Final thought: They must really have the votes locked up on this one, though, because an "emergency" measure requires a 2/3 vote, doesn't it?

Andrew Taylor said:

Couldn't make it downtown tonight, so I watched the proceedings on live TV. Sickening. Just sickening.

Kudos to Jack Henderson and -- surprise! surprise! -- Dennis Troyer for having the guts, honesty, and integrity to oppose this bailout for billionaire Kaiser.

It was no surprise that the likes of Eric Gomez, Bill Martinson and David Patrick all voted "yes," as they're establishment bootlickers. However, I was disappointed by Rick Wescott (who made all the right noises prior to the vote), and especially John Eagleton (who hid behind a mountain of legalese to justify the unjustifiable).

It's time to get to work, Tulsa. Let's get rid of these establishment water-carriers once and for all, and elect some persons who have the best interests of all of Tulsa's citizens in view.

jwcoopusa Author Profile Page said:

Bates, you're amazing. We moved here from NM, which I swore was the epitome of down-and-dirty politics, but if only HALF of what you write is true - and research seems to show an even higher % - OkieHoma Poly-Ticks beats Nuevo Mejico shenanigans hands down!

Good to see someone like you keepin' those Poly-Tish-Uns lookin' over their shoulders. And I don't even live in Tulsa.............

Keep at 'em, feller!

-jwc-

webworm Author Profile Page said:

Sent two emails to GT yesterday. Instructed him to vote no. And he should vote no. We shall see.......

The A Team said:

Gomez got tested and failed miserably. He sure has changed the tune he was singing on the campaign trail. Good thing he's serving a shorter term and will be up for re-election sooner(Nov 09) so this will be fresh on the memory of D4 voters. Draft Bates for D4 in 09.

sbtulsa Author Profile Page said:

The only silver lining in this is that Kathy Taylor has just signed her political death warrant. She can't win a race in Tulsa county for any office.

She actually will have to run for a senate seat or something in another state to get elected. Wonder how much BOK gave to her mayoral campaign.

Also, did not have the nerve to stay and participate (defend?) her recommendation. Lafortune in a skirt.

What do we need to do to get the qui tam started

JW said:

10 people have to get together to submit the writ of qui tam. I have already contacted a qui tam lawyer to see about a consultation on this case (not heard back), but if you have one already please post it here and we'll all get together on this. Basically I'm just looking for a lawyer to advise if this is a case or not, because ultimately the State of Oklahoma will be the plaintiff.

Someone mentioned on KFAQ if an injunction could be filed on the settlement. I'd rather than happen so the judge would have to decide first if CoT is a valid defendant based on the enrichment grounds. A qui tam can't be filed until the actual settlement is paid as I understand it.

MikeB said:

Couldn't they have simply voted to table the measure until the next council meeting? That would have effectively nullified the agreement as the money has to be paid by the 30th.

JW said:

That would have required cajones.

JW said:

I'm having problems finding a lawyer that will touch this so if anyone knows of a lawyer at a larger firm willing to take a look at this let me know. I was told what needs to happen in an injunctive order on the settlement but it needs to happen quickly.

Paul Tay said:

Santa says, "Will the REAL village idiot PLEASE stand UP?" Greetings from PDX.

Wish you were here.

mad okie Author Profile Page said:

JW, as the residents of Layman Van Acres found out, no lawer in Tulsa will take on the political establishment, they are either scared to death, or in the cities back pocket. Event the one we retained from Pryor gave up.

Keith Perry said:

I wondered where all the crooked politicians from the 1950s and 60s in Louisana went to. The escaped to Tulsa, OK. And are living well!!!

Wrinkle said:

As I came to realize as I posted to TulsaNow's forum on this, this payoff is to TIA, not BOK, it appears to me.

TIA has plenty of both cash and assets to cover this were they in default to BOK. And, BOK has not sued to recover from anyone. It's TIA v TAIT.

As we all know, the City of Tulsa is in no way beholden to TIA (a Chamber-Pot operation).

I might even go so far as to suggest BOK has already been paid by TIA who is now only trying to recover.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 26, 2008 12:45 PM.

BOk is still after Tulsa's money was the previous entry in this blog.

BOk bailout: Other voices is the next entry in this blog.

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