Cornett conflict of interest charges; rail fans dial Preservation 911

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Oklahoma City has a lot going for it, but it has its problems, too. Here are a couple of recent news items that may be of interest at the east end of the Turner Turnpike.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett has a new job with ad agency Ackerman McQueen. (He's still mayor, but he has to make a living somehow.) KTOK talk host Mark Shannon says Cornett's job creates all sorts of conflicts of interest, because Ackerman McQueen has so many clients that do business with the city and have a financial interest in the upcoming MAPS 3 vote. Shannon says it's unlikely that the mainstream media will look too closely at the situation:

The OKLAHOMAN ran a glowing story about Cornett's hiring by Ackerman-McQueen, but didn't ask any questions about it. If they did, editors took them all out of the story.

After all, why would the NEWSPAPER do anything NEGATIVE about the VICE PRESIDENT of the company that does their PUBLIC RELATIONS? Why would that same newspaper ask any questions about the Executive Vice-President of the company that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars of their client's dollars buying full-size ads in that same newspaper?

And the TV stations? Well, they wouldn't want to hack off an advertising firm that funnels them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year that represents INTEGRIS HEALTH, OG+E, Chesapeake, The Oklahoma State Fair, Riverwind Casino, Taco Mayo, The Chamber of Commerce, and on and on and on.

According to Shannon, Cornett will not disclose what he is being paid by the agency, what his responsibilities are, or what kind of performance will entitle him to a performance bonus.

Mayor Cornett said in the Sunday Oklahoman on September 13: "Ackerman McQueen is also deeply engrained into our community with a history spanning more than five decades."

That's an understatement.

And now, the MAYOR OF OKLAHOMA CITY is enmeshed with this advertising agency and their clients.

Ackerman-McQueen pays him handsomely for his involvement with their firm....we think. He won't say how much he's making or what, if any, hours he is expected to put in.

Suppose they give him a "performance bonus?" Will we know what the PERFORMANCE was?

Don't you think you should know why, how, and what an elected official is doing for his paycheck?

And the City Attorney won't release the opinion they provided to Cornett regarding conflicts of interest involving his job with Ackerman McQueen:

Mr. Shannon, The document you requested, a written legal opinion, is a confidential attorney-client communication. The Oklahoma Open Records Act, 51 O.S. ยง 24A.5(1), states that the Act does not apply to records specifically required by law to be kept confidential. The legal opinion is therefore not a public record under the Oklahoma Open Records Act, and it does not have to be released by the City. Thanks.

Frances Kersey, City Clerk

TRACKBACK: Charles G. Hill has more thoughts on the matter of Mick Cornett's job and salaries for public officials. He has a rather vivid way of describing Ackerman McQueen's widespread influence in OKC.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Core to Shore area, ODOT proceeds to destroy the Union Station railyard to make way for the relocation of I-40. The station and yard were purchased by COTPA, OKC's transit authority, for use as a multimodal transportation hub, but instead the station is used for offices, and the platforms, once connected by underground tunnels to the station, have been destroyed, and two major viaducts are doomed. Tom Elmore posted a plea for help to the Preservation 911 website:

Walker Ave. Viaduct, Oklahoma City, by Michael BatesThese underpasses, like much of the rest of the sprawling, 8-block-long OKC Union Station complex, were built, largely by hand, by craftsmen of our great grandparents' generation. They have required virtually no maintenance through the years since 1930 and would easily serve for another 80 years (despite the city of OKC's obvious disdain for them and avoidance even of sweeping the protected pedestrian walkways and keeping their lighting in working order).

Perhaps their quality, elegance and longevity is why the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is so hell-bent to destroy them.

ODOT has never built anything remotely to this standard of quality.

In fact, the longstanding east-west highway passage through downtown OKC they now call "The Crosstown Expressway," was built by them, and, because they claim that, like most of the other stuff they've built, it's about to fall down, they've insisted on creating a new path for the road directly through the Union Station rail yard. This plan will very soon destroy not just the rail yard, but the elegant Robinson and Walker underpasses, as well.

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4 Comments

Bob said:

OKC Mayor Mick Cornett has conflicts of interest with Ackerman-McQueen a mile long.

I've thought for a long-time that the guy is composed of primordial slime.

Looks like I'm right, again.

Brooksider Author Profile Page said:

Back in college, many years ago, I was an intern with Ackerman Advertising in Tulsa. I was privileged to work with Marvin McQueen, Angus, and the staff of that company. They were great to work with, fine people, and ethically very sound. Their firm also included (I don't know if it still does) a public relations division.

I hate to see Ackerman-McQueen implicated in any wrongdoing, and I'm sure they checked the legals of this before hiring Cornett. But surely the PR people could see the possible firestorm on the horizon when the public discovers their mayor is an active employee of such a well-known firm with so many clients either selling to or regulated by OKC or the State.

Maybe it takes a lot more than this to create a scandal in OKC anymore. Without casting aspersions on any individual, the deal stinks.

CGHill Author Profile Page said:

Incidentally, OKC voters turned down a charter change that would double the salaries of the Mayor and Council. (Not that His Mickness could get by on $48k a year.)

Interesting, Charles. It's difficult to know how much to pay an elected official. It needs to be enough for them to make it a full-time job, but not so much they want to make a career of it.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 30, 2009 10:59 PM.

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