Tulsa City Hall: May 2004 Archives

No surprise that the Whirled would heap praise on departing City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter. It was under her leadership that the City Attorney's office intervened in the 71st & Harvard F&M Bank zoning case, putting forth a far-fetched opinion regarding the deadline for protest petitions that contradicted the plain language of the city ordinance. (The publisher of the Whirled is the chairman of F&M Bancorporation.)

I am informed by a reliable source that the following sentence from Saturday's paper is misleading:

In January, Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris ruled that a dispute over legal bills for work on the black officer's discrimination suit did not violate the state's budget laws.

Rereading the Whirled's story from January 10, it appears that Harris is saying only that the city only paid the Atlanta law firm what it had contracted with the firm to pay, and in that regard the law wasn't violated. The problem is that the law firm believed the city owed it for the additional work Rupp Carter had authorized beyond the contracted amount, and the firm sued the city to recover that additional amount. That was the issue raised by some city councilors in 2002 -- by obligating the city for money that had not been authorized, Rupp Carter had violated the Municipal Budget Act. In the end, the City had to pay $625,000 to settle the lawsuit. Perhaps because it is a legal settlement, it technically doesn't count as payment for unauthorized services, but that is effectively what that amount represents.

We understand that the OSBI report spells all this out and makes it clear that Rupp Carter is not blameless in her handling of the matter. We also understand that Rupp Carter's resignation comes within a day or two of renewed efforts to seek the release of that report.

It would be easy for public officials to let the matter go, as Rupp Carter is no longer going to be a city employee. That would be a mistake for a couple of reasons. Pursuing justice in the matter could deter future City Attorneys from treating the public and their elected officials with contempt. And not dealing with the outgoing City Attorney could come back to haunt us. So many Tulsans were relieved to see Susan Savage apparently leave public life, only to be appalled by her resurrection as Secretary of State. It would be a shame if, by failing to drive a stake through the career of Savage's jogging buddy, city officials allow her to "fail up" into a more prominent and influential position, after her legal advice cost the city and its taxpayers so much.

Word has reached me that Tulsa City Attorney Martha Rupp Carter has submitted her resignation effective July 1, and will be spending most of the next month using accumulated vacation time. This is great news for our city, and a great opportunity for Mayor Bill LaFortune.

Rupp Carter, appointed to the City Attorney's office by former Mayor Susan Savage, had a knack for getting the City into expensive legal trouble. The list of decisions which either got the City sued or could have is a long one: handling of outside legal support in the Black Officers' lawsuit, the 71st & Harvard ruling against the neighborhood's protest petition, allowing ex-Councilor David Patrick to remain in office despite the fact that he had not been lawfully elected to a new term, speaking to the press about election allegations against Councilor Roscoe Turner. The City Attorney's office under her direction always seemed to be working in the interests of some person or persons other than the ordinary citizens of this city.

Some City Councilors tried to give her the heave-ho a few years ago, when she authorized additional legal services to be performed by an Atlanta law firm in the Black Officers' lawsuit, without obtaining budget authorization for the expenditure, in apparent violation of the Oklahoma Municipal Budget Act. She dodged a bullet at the time, and those Councilors, who were doing their job to hold a city officer accountable for the expenditure of taxpayer money, were roundly condemned by the Tulsa Whirled and the rest of the Cockroach Coalition. There is word that an OSBI investigation of Rupp Carter indicates that those Councilors were correct, and that the possible release of that report was a motivating factor in her resignation.

When I and many others supported Bill LaFortune for Mayor, we never expected him to agree with us on all points, but we did expect him to clean out certain holdovers from the previous administration who had been leading our city down the wrong path. We haven't seen much action in that regard, but Rupp Carter's resignation is a great opportunity, and who is appointed by the Mayor to replace her will speak volumes about his direction for the remainder of his term.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from May 2004.

Tulsa City Hall: June 2004 is the next archive.

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