Bully Dewey: Bartlett Jr's appointed auditor attacks whistleblower for ethics complaint

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CLARIFICATION: The current city auditor won a term subsequent to his appointment; he did not draw an opponent after filing for a full term in 2011. My opinion that he is not sufficiently independent of the mayor who appointed him stands.

A scenario for your consideration:

A politician, fighting a tough re-election campaign, mails out a survey at taxpayers' expense a few weeks before his name is on the ballot. The cover letter, from the politician, touts the politician's accomplishments in office. Even though the mailer doesn't explicitly call for the politician's re-election, it certainly seems timed for that purpose. At the least, it's an example of the advantages of incumbency, the incumbent's ability to use his power to direct city spending in ways that boost his re-election chances. At worst, it's an unethical abuse of the incumbent's power: Some nominal public benefit used to justify the misuse of the incumbent's power for his personal political benefit. Surely there's sufficient cause for a citizen to complain to ethics authorities, even if the politician ultimately is let off the hook.

A whistleblower steps forward and files a complaint. Rather than take the complaint seriously, the investigator dismisses the complaint and then turns his microscope on the whistleblower. The whistleblower is accused of abusing public funds for a political purpose.

Such a topsy-turvy scenario belongs to a Lewis Carroll story. Attacking the whistleblower is the sort of thing a corrupt president might do to punish his political enemies.

Dewey Bartlett JuniorIt's happening right here in Tulsa: Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr's appointed City Auditor, Clift Richards, has used Steven Roemerman's complaint about the pro-Bartlett-Jr tilt of a city-funded survey as a basis for investigating and denouncing the citizen who complained.

When an ethics complaint is lodged against the Mayor, the City Auditor is responsible to investigate. Ordinarily, the City Auditor handles such complaints from a position of independence, but the current City Auditor is not independently elected but was appointed by Bartlett Jr to fill an unexpired term.

Here is the auditor's report on the ethics charge against Dewey Bartlett Jr.

I thought it was odd when I heard from Roemerman that he had been called in for questioning about his complaint. Unless the complainant has some personal knowledge needed to establish the facts of the case, there's no reason to interrogate him. And in this case, the facts -- the existence of the survey, the letter, and its wording -- were all well-established. In light of Auditor Richards's report, it appears that the reason for interrogating Roemerman was not to get to the bottom of the Mayor's conduct but to question the whistleblower's motives and to accuse him of unethical behavior.

Steven+Roemerman-240px.jpgHow, you may ask, can an ordinary citizen be accused of violating the city's ethics ordinance? Roemerman is a member of the city's Sales Tax Overview Committee, so he is a subject of the ordinance. Even so, it's a ridiculous charge. Roemerman didn't mention his position on STOC in his complaint. His position gave him no special standing in filing a complaint. He has no power to direct the expenditure of public funds. He simply exercised the same opportunity that any citizen has to file a complaint. Roemerman told the Tulsa World that he even paid for his own parking when he went to City Hall to file the complaint even though, as a STOC member, he can park at City Hall for free.

On the other hand, Bartlett Jr certainly did have the final say on the survey cover letter that went out to 1,800 Tulsa homes. He may have even been the one that authorized the survey, using money under his discretionary control as mayor.

There's a very odd statement in Bartlett Jr's response to Roemerman's complaint:

To the extent the ETC's preparation of the Community Survey was delayed, it is certainly never been claimed or suggested that I had any responsibility for the timing of the survey's release.

Why not simply say, "I had no responsibility for the timing of the survey's release," unless you can't say it because it's not true?

Even if Bartlett Jr didn't control the timing of the release of the survey, he surely knew when it was going out, and to my mind, it looks like he decided to piggyback a pro-re-election message onto the survey:

When I was first elected in 2009, one of my top priorities as Mayor was to reach out across Tulsa with the first citizen's survey in order to help guide policies for all Tulsans. With the data from that survey and the KPMG recommendations my administration worked with the community to build public policy based on efficiency and citizens input.

There's a lot of Obama-style first-person horn-blowing in that paragraph. It also reflects Bartlett Jr's narcissistic tendency, on display in his infamous Reason interview, to act as if he and his minions are the sum total of city government -- city workers and city councilors don't matter.

And this was not the first survey of Tulsa citizens. As one example, an in-depth citizens' survey was conducted in the first stage of the development of PLANiTULSA.

Likewise, the last sentence: "Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Mayor...." Dewey, it's not all about you.

There has been a pattern, during Bartlett Jr's administration: Dewey's detractors find themselves the target of lawsuits or targeted in some other way. Targeting a citizen for submitting a valid concern looks like more of the same.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 8, 2013 10:50 AM.

Dewey Bartlett Jr defended One Technology Center purchase was the previous entry in this blog.

The Tulsa non-partisan election and runoff process is the next entry in this blog.

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