For Tulsa's good, Bartlett Jr needs to go

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I've mostly avoided delving into the ongoing dispute between Tulsa Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr and the Tulsa City Council. My main reason has been lack of time and energy. It's a valid reason -- my family and the job that pays the bills must come first -- but I'm sorry nevertheless because I feel I've let down BatesLine readers by not covering the issue and my many friends on the City Council by not speaking out in their defense.

When friends have asked about the conflict, I've pointed out that Bartlett Jr has accomplished what no previous mayor has done -- he has managed to alienate all nine members of the City Council. Of course, it's hard to maintain cordial relations with a group of people when you've allegedly recruited citizens to file lawsuits against them as a means of pursuing your political aims. While I won't defend every action by every councilor, I believe that they are more sinned against than sinning in their dispute with Bartlett Jr.

It's all coming to a head with Wednesday's news that Tulsa District 7 Councilor John Eagleton sent a letter to Governor Mary Fallin asking her to request that Attorney General Scott Pruitt investigate a list of charges against Bartlett Jr, with a view to his removal from office.

Eagleton cites 10 charges. To my mind, the most troubling is Bartlett Jr's acceptance of free legal services from Joel Wohlgemuth, whose law firm is also a city contractor. The documentation provided to Gov. Fallin includes two contract amendments with the firm of Norman Wohlgemuth Chandler and Dowdell, one for $25,000 and one for $45,000, both signed by Bartlett Jr.

Nearly as disturbing is the allegation that Bartlett Jr recruited citizens to file lawsuits against the City of Tulsa. From a December 23, 2010, news story:

However, Warren Blakney, the newly elected president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was asked to join the suit but declined because he needed to remain neutral even though he agrees with its claims.

Blakney said he met with Goodwin, Bartlett and Simonson. He said he thought they called him in because Bartlett doesn't have good standing with the black community and needed someone in the suit who is respected in that community.

John Eagleton is a friend of mine and has been for many years. He would not take so drastic a step unless he felt there were no alternative. He knows he will be charged with grandstanding and troublemaking. He knows that this step will kill any political future he may have had. He believes that because of Bartlett Jr's ongoing destructive behavior, his removal from the Mayor's office is the only way for our city to move forward.

While I applaud Bartlett Jr's support for the implementation of PLANiTULSA and hope for positive changes from the KPMG report, he has poisoned his relationship with city councilors and city employees who were ready to work with him for the betterment of Tulsa. He has squandered the trust, the political capital a mayor needs in order to implement difficult changes.

Bartlett Jr needs to go.

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5 Comments

Mike B said:

I have to respectfully disagree. I think the city council are the ones who shoulder the lions share of the blame for this fiasco. They want to pretend that they are the legislative branch of city government much like the House and Senate at the state and federal level. The truth is they aren't. They have very little real power and I think that frustrates them. I haven't seen anything but whining and gnashing of teeth from the councilors all because the mayor won't bend to their wishes. Changing the style of government isn't the solution, electing the right people is.

The City Council is the legislative branch of city government. From Article II, Section 1 of the Tulsa City Charter: "All legislative powers of the City of Tulsa, except for the rights of initiative and referendum reserved to the people of the City of Tulsa by Article XVIII, Section 4, of the Constitution of Oklahoma, shall be vested in and exercised by a Council composed of nine (9) Councilors elected by districts as provided in Article VI of this amended Charter. The Council shall exercise such other powers delegated to the Council by this amended Charter or delegated to the legislative body of a municipality by the Constitution or the laws of Oklahoma." By the way, that last sentence means that the Council retains the power granted it by the Oklahoma Municipal Budget Act to propose budget amendments, contrary to the "advice" rendered by the interim city attorney.

Beau said:

Not only have I watched all this transpire the last many months, I've also experienced it, because the chaos caused by this mayor has a trickle-down effect on the employees.

Eagleton has done an awesome job of summing up the facts. He has done the right thing, and I respect him for his courage. If every elected official were like him, we would have no problems in city government. The elected would be doing their jobs according to the law and Charter and everything would run smoothly.

Not so with this Mayor. He must go and I support the effort to oust him.


theotherguy said:

I don't get it. What is really going on? I read the presentation, I'm not seeing it. Reminds me of an employee that get's "written up". Decision to fire has already been made, boss is just laying the paper trail that may have nothing to do with the firing. So what did Bartlett really do? What's the back story?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 3, 2011 7:48 AM.

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