Shahadi must go

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When a mayoral appointee to a city authority, board, or commission behaves badly, it's rare that our elected officials have an immediate opportunity for corrective action.

Tulsa Development Authority (TDA) board member George Shahadi has been nominated by Mayor Kathy Taylor for another term. His renomination comes before the City Council Urban and Economic Development Committee tomorrow (August 12) at 10 a.m., in Room 201 of old City Hall. (Here is a link to Shahadi's resume.)

Last Thursday, Shahadi voted to prematurely terminate the TDA's exclusive negotiating period with Novus Homes LLC concerning the half-block west of Elgin Ave. between Archer and Brady Streets. The exclusive negotiating period was set to expire on September 4. Instead, when the TDA tract across the street began being discussed as a ballpark location, TDA and city officials began stonewalling Novus Homes' attempts to move their negotiations forward.

Shahadi should have recused himself as soon as the agenda item. He is the director of real estate for the Williams Companies, and his employer is in the group of donors seeking to gain control of the land surrounding the proposed location of a new Drillers Stadium. Shahadi stated at the meeting that he had no obligation to recuse, since his employer was seeking this control for the public good and not for its own profit.

Nevertheless, there's a clear conflict of interest because Shahadi's employer has an interest in the same property about which TDA had promised good-faith negotiations with Novus Homes. Under the circumstances, Shahadi can't be expected to be impartial in weighing the TDA's interests and the public interest in fair dealing versus his employer's interest. The fact that he can't perceive an obvious conflict is reason enough for the City Council to deny his reappoinment.

There are more conflicts coming, because the biggest piece of property in the ballpark puzzle is also owned by the TDA. Employees of Williams and Bank of Oklahoma shouldn't be sitting on the TDA when decisions are made as to the contract terms for the land.

The City Council has an excellent opportunity to take a stand for fairness and openness in government. They have an immediate chance to redress the injustice done to Will Wilkins and Novus Homes at last Thursday's TDA meeting. They need to thank Mr. Shahadi for his service to date and ask Mayor Taylor to send them a replacement nominee.

MORE: Retired architect Bob Sober sent this letter to the City Council:

City Councilors,

On Tuesday morning you will consider the re-appointment of George Shahadi to the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA), please consider the following:

During the TDA meeting last Thursday the 120 Lofts project was discussed extensively. Mr. Shahadi was asked to recuse himself from the discussions and vote, to which he refused. Mr. Shahadi is the Director of Corporate Real Estate for Williams Companies. Williams is one of the listed donors to the ballpark stadium and the eventual public Trust. As you know, the George Kaiser Foundation is attempting to purchase the properties surrounding the ballpark for the yet to be formed "ballpark" trust. The property planned for the 120 Lofts development was identified as one of those desired by the trust. Since Mr. Shahadi's employer has an interest in the disposition in this property, Mr. Shahadi had a clear conflict of interest. Voting members of the TDA should recuse themselves when presented with a real or perceived conflict of interest.

It would be a disservice to the citizens of Tulsa to re-appoint an individual unwilling to take seriously the trust of this council and refrain from influencing the decisions of the TDA when he can not possibly be objective. With direct ties to a donor that will have significant impact on one of the largest public investments in downtown Tulsa and the disposition of surrounding lands for future development Mr. Shahadi can not possibly serve the TDA without impacting his employer. Furthermore, any redevelopment in this area will have a direct impact on the value of the surrounding property. The Williams Companies, being one of the largest property owners in the vicinity to the proposed ballpark, could gain significantly by influencing the decisions of the TDA through their Director of Corporate Real Estate, Mr. Shahadi. Please, do not re-appoint Mr. Shahadi.

Thank you,

Bob Sober

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Paul Tay said:

Westcott to People: TDA resolutions are MEANINGLESS.

Keep it comin', Rick! I'm really getting tired of the long-winded Batesline analysis. Gimme the easy one-liners.

JW said:

Just an update. The discussion of this nomination at UED was pulled. My councilor does not know why as he had to leave early. But to say the least there is a movement afloat to NOT vote this guy back in.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 11, 2008 6:12 PM.

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