Inside baseball

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A surprising item in today's Whirled:

The Tulsa Stadium Trust received only one bid Monday to construct a nearly $40 million downtown baseball stadium and no bids to finance $25 million of its cost.

The construction bid came from Tulsa Stadium Construction Co. LLC, which guarantees that it will build the ballpark for no more than $39.2 million at specifications outlined by the trust.

Phil Lakin, the construction company's manager, submitted the bid.

Lakin also is executive director of the Tulsa Community Foundation, a tax-exempt, public charity created by George Kaiser and other philanthropists in 1998 to receive, protect and distribute gifts from individuals and organizations for the improvement of Tulsa and eastern Oklahoma. Kaiser is not a foundation board member.

The bid also included a statement that no conflicts of interest exist between the construction company and the stadium trust that would interfere in any way with fair competition in the bid- selection process.

The Bank of Oklahoma is a major donor of private funds to the project. Kaiser is chairman of the BOK Financial Corp., and Stan Lybarger, president of Bank of Oklahoma, is the stadium trust's chairman.

The trust is overseeing a $60 million project that includes construction of a 6,200-seat stadium to house the city's Double-A baseball team, the Tulsa Drillers, and the acquisition of adjacent properties for mixed-use development.

Fascinating. I knew Phil Lakin was an accomplished gentleman, but I never knew he was in construction. Here's what Guidestar says about Phil Lakin, on its page about Tulsa Community Foundation:

Phil Lakin, Jr., is the first executive director of TCF. He returned to his hometown with eight years of development experience from his alma mater, Baylor University, where he served as regional director of development and managed the Dallas/Ft. Worth office. Earlier, he had worked as a consultant with Andersen Consulting. Phil earned his BBA and MBA from Baylor, and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive. He is married and has three sons.

The Whirled story leaves out some information about TCF that might have undermined the claim that no conflict of interest exists. There is certainly the appearance of a conflict. While George Kaiser is not on the board of TCF, Ken Levit, the executive director of the George Kaiser Family Foundation, is. More significantly, Stan Lybarger, CEO and President of the Bank of Oklahoma, and Steve Bradshaw, Sr. Executive VP of the Bank of Oklahoma, are both board members of TCF. Lybarger, as the story notes, is also the chairman of the Tulsa Stadium Trust.

Several questions spring to mind:

1. When was the Request for Proposals (RFP) issued?

2. Where was the RFP posted? On the internet? On the City Hall bulletin board? Hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on the porch of Funk and Wagnalls?

3. How was the RFP advertised? Were ads placed in national publications and websites that are used to advertise municipal construction projects to prospective contractors? Were contractors for recent ballpark construction in other cities contacted and encouraged to submit bids? Was an active effort made to solicit the best possible deal for Tulsa?

4. Even if the RFP was widely advertised, were prospective bidders deterred by the appearance of a conflict of interest, that Mr. Lakin's firm was almost certain to get the job because of his connections with Tulsa Stadium Trust members and donors? Putting together a proposal can be very pricey, and a company will no-bid a job if it sees little chance of recouping its investment in developing a proposal.

5. Who are the principals and members of Tulsa Stadium Construction Co. LLC?

This is a public project, and most of the funding is being extracted from downtown property owners by force of law. It's called an assessment, but for all practical purposes, it's a tax, and the tax revenue is being handled by a public trust of the City of Tulsa. The public deserves full and open competition, with not even the appearance of a conflict of interest, for such an important civic asset. The people of Tulsa, especially the downtown property owners, deserve answers to these questions.

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2 Comments

Bob said:

EXCELLENT questions as usual, Michael.

Too bad no one associated with the Stadium project wants to volunteer necessary answers.

This whole deal is rife with apparent and real conflicts of interest, prominent being BOK CEO Lybarger's playing both sides: Board of TCF and Chairman of the Stadium Trust Authority.

Likewise, Ken Levit is certainly NOT independent from the involvement of the Kaiser Family Foundation vis-a-vis Tulsa Community Foundation.

Jeff Shaw Author Profile Page said:

Here's some sketchy information from the Secretary of State. It costs money to delve any further. FYI Oklahoma is one of only two states that charge for corporate info - the other is New Jersey.

TULSA STADIUM CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, LLC is a Domestic (Registered in Oklahoma) Limited Liability Company, with an effective date of 7/21/2008. The service agent is Dorwart Frederic.

THE STADIUM CORPORATION OF TULSA Domestic Not For Profit Corporation, no registered agent or effective date of organization listed.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on December 2, 2008 11:49 PM.

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