Tulsa District 9: G. T. Bynum ethics complaint

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I received an email Monday containing an anonymous ethics complaint that had been filed against Tulsa District 9 City Councilor G. T. Bynum. The text of that complaint, with links to relevant documentation added by me, can be found on the jump page for this article.

(For your reference, here is a direct link to the City of Tulsa ethics ordinance.)

The complaint involves conflicts of interest connected with Bynum's participation in Council votes involving sole-source, non-competitive awards of city revenue bond business to the Bank of Oklahoma, of which Bynum's grandfather, former Mayor Robert J. LaFortune, is a director and shareholder of holding company BOK Financial Corporation, and involving clients of his lobbying firm, including the George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) and Family and Children's Services (FCS), a CDBG fund recipient.

Despite the nearness of the election, I believe that these allegations deserve to be reported to and considered by the voters. (I had hoped to publish this within a day of receiving it, but researching and adding links is a time-consuming process.)

The facts alleged regarding specific Bynum council votes, Bynum's work as a lobbyist, and his grandfather's membership of the BOK board are all well documented. Matters of "the appearance of impropriety" are open to interpretation, and there are some subtle issues with the timeline presented in the complaint. Bynum voted on issues relating to GKFF shortly before and shortly after his 11 months as a registered lobbyist for GKFF. Alleged Violation 8, however, involves Bynum voting on a matter pertaining to the Tulsa Stadium Trust, in which GKFF has an interest as a donor, in March 2010, while Bynum was a registered GKFF lobbyist.

Allegation 11, regarding lobbying client Family and Children's Services, is the only allegation that seems weak, as Bynum appears to have recused himself from voting on the Community Development Block Grant allocations in August 2010 and July 2011. (During that same August 12, 2010, council meeting, however, Bynum voted on an item involving a gift to the city from Tulsa Community Foundation; at the time he was a lobbyist for GKFF. According to the GKFF website, the board of TCF appoints the GKFF Board of Directors.)

But a city councilor acting as a federal lobbyist for entities with interests before the City Council presents a clear conflict of interest in which an action by Bynum in the best interest of his constituents might not be in line with the aims of his lobbying clients and vice versa.

One of the alleged violations states that Bynum's work as a lobbyist is per se "a violation of Section 600, 'such individuals shall not use their public positions for personal gain nor should they act in such a way to give an appearance of any impropriety.'" Certainly, Bynum's lobbying practice is based in large part on his experience as a Washington staffer for Oklahoma U. S. Senators Don Nickles and Tom Coburn. But it could be argued that his status as a sitting Tulsa official adds to his appeal to potential clients, so that in and of itself, serving as a lobbyist while a councilor violates the ethics ordinance.

One allegation involves a promissory note for $7,825,000.00 from the City to the GKFF relating to the OSU Medical Center (formerly Oklahoma Osteopathic Hospital and Tulsa Regional Medical Center). The vote occurred on December 3, 2009, about 43 days before Bynum registered as a federal lobbyist for GKFF on January 12, 2010. "Expanded access to and improved health care in Oklahoma through the Oklahoma State University Medical Center" is listed as a lobbying issue in each of the four quarterly reports Bynum filed regarding his work for GKFF. (2010 Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4. The Bynum/GKFF lobbying relationship was terminated on December 1, 2010, according to Bynum's 2010 Q4 filing.)

On the House lobby disclosure search form, selecting Lobbyist Name as search field and Bynum as criteria will bring up G. T. Bynum's current lobbying work (under the registrant names Capitol Ventures Government Relations LLC, Capitol Ventures Government Relations LLC(AKA GT Bynum Cons), and G.T. Bynum Consulting, LLC) and his wife Susan Bynum's past work for Capitol Hill Consulting Group, headed by former Oklahoma Democrat Congressman Bill Brewster

Four of the eleven allegations involve Bynum failing to recuse himself when the Council voted to waive competitive bidding for revenue bond indenture with Bank of Oklahoma, in amounts ranging from $22,500.000.00 to $155,860,000.00.

Local governments and public trusts that look out for the taxpayers' best interest put bond issues up for competitive bidding in order to get the best possible interest rate and lowest bond fees. Just as a prospective or refinancing homeowner shops around for the best combination of interest rate, points, and closing costs, a city ought to shop around for the best bond financing deal. Publications like The Bond Buyer allow local governments to advertise their bond issues nationwide for the best deal. As the Lending Tree slogan goes, "When banks compete, you win."

Giving the city's bond business to the same bank without competition is a disservice to the taxpayer, but it does improve the bank's bottom line to the financial benefit of shareholders like G. T. Bynum's grandpa.

G. T. Bynum should have known to recuse himself on these votes; grandfather falls within the ethics ordinance's definition of immediate family. More than that, someone with Bynum's degree of financial savvy should have proposed an ordinance requiring competitive bidding for bond issues over a certain amount. There are plenty of firms in and around Tulsa and Oklahoma capable of handling the work.

This was a topic I followed closely in 2003, when Tulsa County commissioners chose to give sole-source Vision 2025 revenue bond contracts (borrowing money against future sales tax receipts rather than spending the money as it comes in) to politically connected firms. From the BatesLine archives on non-competitive bond issues:

The City of Tulsa ethics ordinance defines any relative within two degrees of consanguinity or affinity as immediate family for the purposes of determining a conflict of interest. This includes grandparents, parents, siblings, children, and grandchildren of oneself or one's spouse.

The relationship between Bynum and LaFortune is well-known. The relationship between LaFortune and BOK Financial is documented in SEC filings. LaFortune is a director of the corporation and a member of the Board of Directors' Credit Committee, and he owns stock in BOKF worth between $2 million and $3 million. A few examples from the SEC's EDGAR database covering the period of the complaint:

The complaint, sent to me as plain text, lists specific council agenda items. My annotations are in italics and square brackets, and all links below were added by me:
The following is a complaint asserting violations of Title 12, Internal Policies, Ch 6, Ethics Code against Councilor GT Bynum:

Violation 1:

On 10/1/09 Councilor Bynum seconded a motion and voted to approve Council agenda item 3b. This item approved the waiver of competitive bidding for revenue bond indenture with Bank of Oklahoma totaling $155,860,000.00. Councilor Bynum's grandfather and campaign manager is Robert J. LaFortune. Mr. LaFortune is a director of Bank of Oklahoma Financial and has sufficient financial holding to have both organizational and financial interest as defined in section 601. Councilor Bynum's relation to Mr. LaFortune is within two degrees of affinity or consanguinity defined as Immediate Family in section 601. Councilor Bynum's participation in this action is prohibited by related personal, financial or organizational interest defined in section 603. Written disclosure with the court clerk is required by section 604b. Section 607 requires disclosure of personal, organizational interest of immediate family in a business that is receiving City funds, directly or indirectly, through business agreement with the City or a City contractor.

Violation 2:

On 03/11/10 Councilor Bynum voted to approve Council Agenda item 3b. This item approved the waiver of competitive bidding for Revenue Bond Indenture with Bank of Oklahoma totaling $35,000,000.00. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 1. [Bynum did recuse himself on the following item 3.c., approving OSU Medical Center Trust indebtedness and waiver of competitive bidding.]

Violation 3:

After being elected to office Councilor Bynum created GT Bynum Consulting LLC, aka Capitol Ventures Government Relations, a lobbying firm. This is a violation of Section 600, "such individuals shall not use their public positions for personal gain nor should they act in such a way to give an appearance of any impropriety."

Violation 4:

GT Bynum Consulting, aka Capitol Ventures Government Relations, engaged in lobbying activities on behalf of the City of Miami. This is a violation of Section 600, "no City official should have any interest, financial, personal, or organizational, direct or indirect, or engage in any business, transaction, or activity or incur any obligation that is in conflict with the proper discharge of their duties in the public interest", "such individuals shall not use their public positions for personal gain nor should they act in such a way to give an appearance of any impropriety."

[Congressional disclosure statements regarding Bynum's lobbying relationship with the City of Miami, which began on March 24, 2010 and is ongoing: 2010 Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4, 2011 Q1, 2011 Q2.}

Violation 5:

GT Bynum Consulting, aka Capitol Ventures Government Relations, engaged in lobbying activities on behalf of the George Kaiser Family Foundation and received in excess of $50,000.00 for lobbying services. The lobbying activity and specific lobbying issues are, as reported, expanded access to and improved health care in Oklahoma through the Oklahoma State University Medical Center, Trail revitalization, Female incarceration rates and Arkansas River low water dam development.

The lobbying activity and the specific issues are in conflict with city business as defined in Section 600. The George Kaiser Family Foundation has an organizational and financial interest in additional entities doing business with the City of Tulsa. The George Kaiser Family Foundation is a supporting organization of the Tulsa Community Foundation. The Board of the Tulsa Community Foundation appoints the GKFF Board of Directors. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Tulsa Community Foundation have a financial and organizational interest in the Tulsa Stadium Trust. The Tulsa Community Foundation has a financial and organizational interest in Tulsa Zoo Management Inc.

[Congressional disclosure statements regarding Bynum's lobbying relationship with GKFF: 2010 Q1, 2010 Q2, 2010 Q3, 2010 Q4.}

Violation 6:

On 12/3/09 Councilor Bynum voted to approve Council Agenda item 3b. [This should read 3c. Ironically, item 3b involves authorizing competitive bidding for $14,510,000, a smaller amount of debt.] This approved the waiver of competitive bidding and promissory note obligations by the Oklahoma State University Medical Center Trust of $22,500.000.00 to the Bank of Oklahoma and $7,825,000.00 to the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Councilor Bynum received direct financial payment by the George Kaiser Family Foundation for specific lobbying efforts related to the Oklahoma State University Medical Center. This is a violation of Sections 600, 603, 604, 607.

Violation 7:

On 12/16/10 Councilor Bynum moved the motion and voted to approve Council Agenda item 7a. This approved the transfer of $1,189,000.00 to Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Tulsa Community Foundation have a financial and organizational interest in Tulsa Zoo Management Inc., the Chairman of the GKFF Board of Directors is Phil Lakin. Mr. Lakin is also the president of Tulsa Zoo Management Inc. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 5, 6.

Violation 8:

On 3/11/10 Councilor Bynum voted to approve Council Agenda item 7f. This item approved supplemental appropriations to be received within the Tulsa Stadium Trust Fund. The George Kaiser Family Foundation and the Tulsa Community Foundation have financial and organizational interest in the Tulsa Stadium Trust Fund. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 5, 6.

Violation 9:

On 12/2/10 Councilor Bynum seconded a motion and voted to approve Council Agenda
item 3b. [This should read item 4b.] This item approved the waiver of competitive bidding for Revenue Bond Indenture by the Tulsa Industrial Authority with Bank of Oklahoma totaling $35,000,000.00. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 1.

Violation 10:

On 12/16/10 Councilor Bynum moved the motion and voted to approve Council Agenda item 7c. This item approved donation of $52,000.00 by the Tulsa Community Foundation for Mayor Department Salaries. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 3,4,5.

Violation 11:

Councilor Bynum has engaged in lobbying activities on behalf of Family and Children's Services of Oklahoma that requires recusal from CDBG Funding. Violations of participation prohibition and disclosure are as stated in Violation 4.

[Congressional disclosure statements regarding Bynum's lobbying relationship with FCS, which was registered on February 1, 2011: 2011 Q1, 2011 Q2. Bynum lobbies for FCS regarding "Female incarceration rate reduction initiatives" which was an issue for which he previously lobbied for GKFF.]

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Happy election day! Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In two districts (1 and 5), the primary will determine a winner. In all districts, the primary will determine whether we'll have good representation or not-so-good representation at City Hall whe... Read More

2 Comments

Bob said:

Reading the Ethics Complaint concerning Councilor G.T. Bynum, I realize that the ethical morass at Tulsa City Hall is actually much more fetid than the west Tulsa sewage processing plant on a hot August day.

City Council District 9 voters should realize that a vote for George Kaiser Family Foundation lobbyist G.T. Bynum is a vote for continued political domination by billionaire King Kaiser to benefit his Bank of Kaiser financial machinations.

Besides, launching a pathetic political dirty trick two weeks before an election against opponent Robert Pinney shows that George T. Bynum is a weak-wristed:

Girly-Man.

What a pathetic pansy!

G.T., you can always RUN AWAY if you see the determined council candidate Robert Pinney coming your way.....RUN, RUN AWAY.

The A Team said:

D9 GOP voters have a chance to break free from the oppressive yoke of the corruption and tyranny of the astroturf aristocracy in Tulsa by rejecting Bynum, embarking on the beginning of the end of the Bartlett/ Bynum/ Blake the Fake Caviar Conservative Chambercrat three ring GKFF/Tulsa Corruption Foundation/Slave Our Tulsa/BIZPAC Chamber of Corruption special interest circus

I hope they vote wisely to take full advantage of this opportunity to wrestle power away from the special interests and return it back to where it rightly belongs, to the citizens of Tulsa.

P.S. While the question of whether government should be racking up debt is a topic of fierce debate, the requirement of competitive bidding for government bond indebtedness should be a no brainer that everyone can agree on.

It's worth mentioning that the Tulsa County Democratic Party passed a resolution at their last convention in support of requiring competitive bidding for all government incurred bond indebtedness.

This is something that should have been done long ago, and needs to happen ASAP, as it should sail through with bi-partisan support.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 8, 2011 1:35 AM.

Tulsa Election 2011: Pre-primary campaign contribution reports was the previous entry in this blog.

Tulsa District 4: Get Rocky Frisco some wheels! is the next entry in this blog.

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