PLANiTULSA up for approval; stealth charter amendments return

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UPDATE: G. T. Bynum tweets, regarding the charter amendments on the 6 p.m. agenda:

@BatesLine Staff error. Will be delayed yet another week for amdts to be online plenty of time.

This is a crazy-busy time in Tulsa politics. You'd think the City Hall folks would have the courtesy to settle things down while there are state and county primaries about to happen. But no....

There are four -- count them, four -- Tulsa City Council meetings today. At 2 p.m., a special meeting will be held to discuss amendments to the Tulsa City Charter proposed by Councilor Roscoe Turner:

01. Proposed Charter Amendment:Change of form of government to a Charter form of the Council / Manager form of government. (Turner) 10-446-3 02. Proposed Charter Amendment: Making the City Attorney an elected position. (Turner) 10-446-4 03. Proposed Charter Amendment: Establishing a Council Attorney. (Turner) 10-446-5 04. Proposed Charter Amendment: Having Fire Department assume EMSA's duties and responsibilities. (Turner) 10-446-6

The 3 p.m. special meeting will deal with the controversy surrounding Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr, Chief of Staff Terry Simonson, federal grants, and police layoffs.

01. Consider motion and enter executive session pursuant Title 25 O.S. Section 307(B)(1) to discuss potential disciplinary action by the Council with regard to the Mayor and/or Chief of Staff/General Counsel, based upon the recent investigation into statements made to the Tulsa City Council and to federal agencies regarding the use or repurposing of Justice Administration Grant funds for police officer salaries. 10-184-3 02. Leave executive session to possibly take appropriate disciplinary action with regard to the Mayor and/or Chief of Staff/General Counsel, based upon the recent investigation into statements made to the Tulsa City Council and to federal agencies regarding the use or repurposing of Justice Administration Grant funds for police officer salaries. 10-184-4 03. Adjournment 04. Discussion regarding the status of the investigation, report and effects of City Attorney's Office recusal, and possible administrative actions which the City Council may take with regard to the Mayor and/or Chief of Staff based upon the findings of the report. 10-184-5 05. Discussion and possible approval of a recommendation regarding the qualifications of Dafne Pharis for the position of Director of Grants Administrator. (Henderson) 10-536-1

Charter amendments will be back on the table at the 5 p.m. meeting. The first item deals with the amendments regarding independent candidates, an "independent primary" election, and primary runoff elections that emerged from G. T. Bynum's election reform task force. These items are also on the 6 p.m. agenda, and once again the text of the proposed charter amendments is not available on the City Council website.

There's another new amendment on the 5 p.m. agenda, brought forward by Council Chairman Rick Westcott. This would fix a problem with the ill-considered charter amendment approved last fall, which made council terms three years on a rotating cycle, so that three seats are up for election every year. The proposal (which IS on the Council website) would move the primary in even-numbered years to August to coincide with the state primary runoff election. The primary would remain on the second Tuesday in September in odd-numbered years. This would allow the City to use the resources of the Tulsa County Election Board to run the election. State law prohibits county election boards from servicing elections which are not held on election days authorized by state law (26 O. S. 13-103)

D. All municipal elections, including elections for municipalities with home rule charters, shall be held only on dates identified by subsection B of Section 3-101 of this title.

The authorized dates are established by 26 O. S. 3-101:

Except as otherwise provided by law, no special election shall be held by any county, school district, technology center school district, municipality or other entity authorized to call elections except on the second Tuesday of January, February, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December and the first Tuesday in March and April in odd-numbered years and the second Tuesday of January, February, May, and December, the first Tuesday in March and April, the last Tuesday in July, the fourth Tuesday in August, and the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of any even-numbered year; except in any year when a Presidential Preferential Primary Election is held in February, the date for the special elections shall be the same date as the Presidential Preferential Primary Election.

While this change is an improvement, staggered terms will still result in different election conditions every year on a 12-year-cycle: which councilors are up for election, which month for the primary, which Tuesday in November for the general, whether or not the Mayor is on the ballot, whether or not the Auditor is on the ballot, whether or not the President is on the ballot. In some years, council candidates will share the stage only with the auditor; in others, council candidates will compete with presidential, congressional, county, and legislative candidates for dollars, volunteers, and attention. The number of weeks between primary and general will oscillate between 8 and 11.

(And staggered terms, with or without the new amendment, play havoc with the number of signatures required to recall a councilor, which is based on the last time the seat was on the same ballot as the mayoral general election, an event that could be 11 years in the past.)

The best way to fix the staggered terms mess is to repeal it.

The 6 p.m. meeting brings back the aforementioned Bynum charter amendments for consideration for the November ballot and considers replacing the Existing Structures Code wholesale with a new "Property Maintenance Code." (Anyone looked at the impact on restoration and reuse of historic buildings?)

On top of everything else, the Council will consider adoption of PLANiTULSA as the City's comprehensive plan. As with the charter amendments, NO BACKUP DOCUMENTATION has been provided on the Council's website, so we can't see precisely what the Council may be adopting tonight.

Oh, and all the City Councilors are being sued by Burt Holmes, Nancy Rothman, and Henryetta McIntosh for allegedly violating the Open Meeting Act. Who paid the filing fee?

RECEIPT # 2010-1935441 ON 07/14/2010. PAYOR:FREDERIC DORWART TOTAL AMOUNT PAID: $128.00.

The Dorwart firm is the former employer of Tulsa City Attorney Deirdre Dexter and lists among its clients BOK Financial Corporation, George Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser-Francis Oil Company, Tulsa Community Foundation, and Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce. Dorwart was the attorney of record for the Tulsa Industrial Authority in its suit against the Tulsa Airports Improvement Trust and the City of Tulsa over the Great Plains Airlines loan default, which was settled by the City paying $7.1 million from property tax funds.

Fun times.

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The A Team said:

No back up documentation for the PlaniTulsa agenda item, either?

These items lacking back up documentation should be tabled until those back-up documents are available in advance for public inspection. How can there be any real public comment if the public has not had the opportunity to inspect and review the full text of what exactly the Council is voting on?

As far as the lawsuit is concerned, many legal experts have concurred that the Council violated Open Meeting Laws by voting in executive session.

"The vote was a violation," said Joey Senat, board member and past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma.

Mark Thomas, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Press Association, said a board cannot even poll its members on an issue in executive session. It must adjourn the closed meeting and go back into a public meeting. "Otherwise, they'd never come out," Thomas said.

Nothing in the law states that an executive session begins when a door is closed and the start of the meeting is declared, said Charlie Price, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's Office.

Thomas said the law is specific that an executive session "is authorized by a majority vote."

"Once they publicly utter the words 'aye' or 'yes' to the motion and the vote is recorded, that's all that is required by law," Thomas said.

"It doesn't matter whether the door is opened or closed, the lights are on or off, or a gavel is banged on the table — surprise, surprise, you're in executive session," he said.

Thomas suggested that the council "go back and review the advice they're getting from their attorney."

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 15, 2010 12:42 PM.

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