Bartlett Jr violated ethics code, auditor says

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An ethics investigation by the Tulsa City Auditor's office into Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's acceptance of free legal services from a city contractor found that Bartlett Jr violated the city's ethics code.

DOWNLOAD (4.5 MB PDF): Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr Ethics Investigation

Although the services offered by attorney Joel Wohlgemuth were intended as a public service, Bartlett Jr's acceptance of them, rather than paying for his own attorney, could reasonably appear improper "due to personal benefit received and the Mayor's position to potentially approve future contracts between the City and the Contractor." The value of the services performed for the mayor is unknown, but almost certainly exceeds the threshold of $35 for gifts or favors to city officials. The report states, "There reasonably could be a perception of influence of performance of official duties due to the personal benefit received and the Mayor's position to potentially approve future contracts between the City and the Contractor."

Bartlett Jr had previously approved contract extensions for Wohlgemuth's firm, but not since entering into an attorney-client relationship with Wohlgemuth in July 2010.

The report recommends that before accepting free services intended as a public service from a city contractor, the Mayor should seek an opinion from the Ethics Advisory Committee and the services offered should be formally accepted by the City Council using the standard process for accepting donations to the city.

Another finding in the report deserves attention: The City should have a formal process in place for selecting and hiring outside legal services.

Statements during interviews determined selection and engagement of outside legal counsel by the City has varied by Mayoral administrations. Depending on the Mayor and type of case, sometimes Mayors have determined who they wanted and the process was to determine budget amounts, hourly rates and to prepare a contract. Other times the City Attorney and Legal Department staff may have discussions of who would be an appropriate attorney for a particular case and the rates. Previous administrations and City Attorneys have used a Request for Proposal (RFP) process and RFP's are still used for some unusual cases. Without established policy and procedures, the selection process could be subject to manipulation or abuse, inefficiency and higher cost to the City.

Recommendation:
The City should adopt and document policies and procedures for engagement of outside legal counsel.

As it stands, the Mayor could easily shovel lucrative city legal business to personal friends and campaign donors, whether or not the attorneys so blessed are the best choice for a particular case. Many other attorneys are willing and able to do legal work for the city; the opportunity shouldn't be limited to a small group of insiders.

According to the report, the city and its related trusts and authorities have paid Wohlgemuth's firm $1,064,661.58 since 1993.

The City Auditor's office is independent of the other two branches of city government. The auditor is directly elected by the voters, except when a vacancy occurs within a year of the next election. Preston Doerflinger, elected in 2009, resigned to accept a position in Gov. Mary Fallin's administration. His replacement, Clift Richards, was nominated by the Mayor and confirmed by the City Council.

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3 Comments

David Van Author Profile Page said:

This is more of an indictment of the screwed up city charter.
I'm all for civic volunteerism. This policy hinders that. There has to be a better way to organize a city government!

If the worst thing Dewey does, is accept volunteer help in city matters, he's a hero!

I was going to clean the leaves out of the storm drain, down the block. But now I'm not sure if that's acceptable, since I am a home improvements contractor?

David Van Author Profile Page said:

This is more of an indictment of the screwed up city charter.
I'm all for civic volunteerism. This policy hinders that. There has to be a better way to organize a city government!

If the worst thing Dewey does, is accept volunteer help in city matters, he's a hero!

I was going to clean the leaves out of the storm drain, down the block. But now I'm not sure if that's acceptable, since I am a home improvements contractor?

No consultant, lawyer, or manager would be eligible to serve on city boards and commissions, either; since they would be offering free advisory services which they charge others for.

David Van Author Profile Page said:

This is more of an indictment of the screwed up city charter.
I'm all for civic volunteerism. This policy hinders that. There has to be a better way to organize a city government!

If the worst thing Dewey does, is accept volunteer help in city matters, he's a hero!

I was going to clean the leaves out of the storm drain, down the block. But now I'm not sure if that's acceptable, since I am a home improvements contractor?

No consultant, lawyer, or manager would be eligible to serve on city boards and commissions, either; since they would be offering free advisory services which they charge others for.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on May 21, 2011 4:09 AM.

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