Tulsa City Hall: April 2009 Archives

Keep Michael Slankard

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UPDATE 2:00 p.m.: Mayor's office has delayed Rodolf nomination to next week.

UPDATE 5/1/2009: Council declined to approve postponement, then turned down the Rodolf nomination, 3-6 -- Patrick, Troyer, Bynum voting yes; Henderson, Westcott, Gomez, Martinson, Eagleton, Christiansen voting no.

Tonight (April 30, 2009) at the Tulsa City Council's regular meeting, the Council will consider Mayor Kathy Taylor's nomination of a replacement for Michael Slankard on the City's Ethics Advisory Committee (EAC). The Council should vote against the replacement nominee, which will leave Slankard in place, continuing his honorable and independent service on that committee.

Despite the urging of the chairman of the EAC and the desire of a majority on the Council, Taylor refused to reappoint Slankard. As the Council's resistance to a replacement solidified, suddenly some anonymous person brought an ethics complaint against Slankard, claiming a conflict of interest because he suggested and then participated in the investigation (and dismissal) of ethical issues surrounding Taylor giving Councilor David Patrick a ride back from Colorado on her Lear 31A, just in time to vote on Taylor's financing plan for the downtown. Slankard voted with the rest of the committee, finding no ethical violation by either Patrick or Taylor.

The complaint against Slankard was passed through City Attorney Dierdre Dexter, who is an at-will employee of Taylor. The complaint was investigated and rejected by the other members of the EAC, despite their long-standing policy against hearing anonymous complaints at all.

You can read a more detailed account of the tug of war between Taylor and the Council over Michael Slankard's reappointment in my April 15, 2009, UTW column.

This apparent attempt to use the ethics process for leverage in a political battle between the executive and legislative branches ought to make Slankard's supporters on the City Council even more determined to keep him on the EAC.

Taylor's proposed replacement for Slankard, Sandra Rodolf, was back before the Council at the Tuesday, April 28, Urban and Economic Development committee meeting. According to a couple of independent reports, Jack Henderson, Rick Westcott, Bill Martinson, and John Eagleton all indicated that they support Slankard and would be voting against Rodolf's appointment; David Patrick, Dennis Troyer, and G. T. Bynum expressed support for Rodolf; Bill Christiansen and Eric Gomez didn't say either way, but have expressed support for keeping Slankard on the committee.

Here is the summary of the discussion from the April 28, 2009, Urban and Economic Development Committee meeting. The summary appears to have been truncated by the database software:

Sandra Rodolf present. Westcott felt her qualifications were stellar; however, he feels the Mayor is using her as an attempt to get back at Micahel Slankard, and for that, he apologizes. Councilor Westcott gave the background history of the case involving Michael Slankard. Councilor Troyer commented that all the Council does is approve or disapprove the Mayor's recommendations. Councilor Eagleton echoed Westcott's comments. Councilor Patrick commented that Mrs. Rodolf was not involved with Michael Slankard and should be approved based on her qualifications only. Councilor Bynum thanked Ms. Rodolf for going through this appointment process. The Charter states what the role of the Council is during the appointment process. We should vote on her qualifications only. Councilor Henderson expressed concerned of having 3 members from District 9 on one committee. Nancy Siegel - don't believe everything you think. She was recommended solely based her background and qualifications. Mr. Slankard is being replaced due to his tenure on the board. Ethics will be highly called upon due to PW issues. This is speculation only. Henderson does not understand why the appointees have to have a legal background. Also, the City's position has been to keep the experienced appointees on the board. Councilor Martinson

Henderson raised an important point about diversity on the committee. Taylor's change would be a step backwards in terms of geographic diversity. Replacing Slankard with Rodolf would swap a resident of north Tulsa's District 3, which has few members of city authorities, boards, and commissions (known as ABCs for short) with a resident of the Midtown Money Belt, which historically is where most mayoral appointees live -- this is a long-term trend, not specific to Taylor). As last summer's PLANiTULSA survey showed, midtowners and north Tulsans have very different views about how fair city government is. Loading the EAC up with Midtown Money Belt residents would send the wrong signal to the rest of the city. There needs to be a balance.

With due respect to Councilor Bynum, he's reading something into the City Charter that isn't there. Article III, Section 1.4, paragraph G says regarding mayoral appointments to ABCs:

Appoint, subject to confirmation by a majority vote of the entire membership of the Council, the members of all boards, commissions, authorities, and agencies created by this amended Charter, ordinance, agreement, or pursuant to law, and exercise general control and supervision thereof, provided, all appointees shall, as a condition of their appointment and continued service, be qualified electors and maintain their principal residence within the city limits of the City of Tulsa

Nothing in the charter specifies the criteria a councilor must apply when voting on a mayoral ABC appointee. The councilors can apply whatever standards they deem prudent. The confirmation power is an important check on mayoral power. ABCs have significant power -- some more than others -- and in some cases, the vote on the appointment is the only input the councilors have into the way a given ABC sets policy.

When Mayor Bill LaFortune reappointed Jim Cameron and Lou Reynolds to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, a majority of the councilors objected, concerned about the TMUA's policies on water rates to the suburbs and whether the authority was putting the growth desires of the suburbs ahead of those of undeveloped parts of the City of Tulsa. I supported the "Gang of Five" in their effort to block the reappointment. (The effort failed when Sam Roop switched sides on the issue, shortly before LaFortune hired him to work in the Mayor's office.)

In August 2001, during the Susan Savage administration, the City Council voted against reappointing Kim Holland to the EMSA board. They were raked over the coals by the daily paper for doing so, but there was no question that they had the discretion and authority to say no to Savage's pick.

More recently, Taylor has quietly withdrawn the names of at least two of her appointees after it became clear that the Council would reject. There was speculation that the same thing would happen with the Rodolf nomination.

Once in a while the Council takes a vote that I regard as a key test of character, an indication of whether someone is willing to do the right thing in the face of pressure. These are the votes I remember and weigh when a city councilor seeks higher office. (If the persistent rumors that Taylor may be leaving for a position in the Obama administration are true, several of these councilors may be running for mayor sooner than they planned.)

The vote tonight on replacing Michael Slankard is such a test. The City Council should emphatically reject Kathy Taylor's efforts to kick an honorable, scrupulous man off of the Ethics Advisory Committee.

DOCUMENTS:

Last fall Novus Homes LLC, W3 Development LLC, and principals of the two companies filed suit against Tulsa Development Authority for breach of contract involving TDA's termination of the exclusive negotiating period with Novus Homes LLC for redevelopment of the vacant the half-block west of Elgin Avenue between Archer and Brady Streets. Novus Homes planned a lofts and retail development on the site, which is now part of the land the stadium donors plan to redevelop in connection with the new downtown stadium for the Tulsa Drillers. On Tuesday, the suit has been expanded to include the City of Tulsa as a defendant, citing actions by Mayor Kathy Taylor which, the plaintiffs allege, resulted in the early termination of the exclusive negotiating period for the land.

According to a story in today's Journal Record, "Through the discovery process, the developers said they learned of Taylor's alleged interference in TDA business and procedures, leading to termination of their exclusive deal in her quest to complete the ballpark deal."

Here's a link to the OSCN page on the suit, CJ-2008-5713. Here is the amended petition for the lawsuit (PDF). It includes the following allegation:

30. Beginning in late May, 2008, City of Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor began inserting herself into TDA operations related to this downtown Tulsa location, without TDA approval. The TDA viewed Mayor Taylor's interference as "irregular," and TDA Commissioners were "concerned" and "surprised" by her "irregular" interference in their operations. See, e.g., Transcript of Deposition of TDA Commissioner John Clayman, Tulsa County District Court Case No. CJ-2008-5713, at pp. 40-48 (November 11, 2008).

31. Mayor Taylor was, without consulting or obtaining approval from the TDA, personally renegotiating and amending existing TDA contracts, conveying TDA-owned properties in exchange for properties the City of Tulsa and the eventual Tulsa Stadium Trust desired, and influencing existing TDA relationships, all to enable the City of Tulsa and the Tulsa Stadium Trust to procure the real property necessary for the proposed new downtown baseball stadium and surrounding development.

32. Mayor Taylor's actions were in violation of O.S. ยง11 38-107, whereby powers of the Urban Renewal Authority (TDA) "shall be exercised by the commissioners thereof."

Here's the press release from Novus Homes:

DOWNTOWN DEVELOPERS SUE CITY OF TULSA
FOR MAYOR'S OBSTRUCTION WITH PROJECT

Two Tulsa development companies and their principals have filed a lawsuit against the City of Tulsa alleging that the City, and specifically Mayor Kathy Taylor, unlawfully interfered with their exclusive contractual rights to develop a downtown property. The developers allege that the City's interference was part of the Mayor's effort to relocate the Tulsa Drillers baseball stadium to the downtown Brady District.

On April 14, 2009, Novus Homes, LLC, W3 Development, LLC, Will Wilkins and Cecilia Wilkins added the City as a second defendant to their lawsuit originally brought against the Tulsa Development Authority (TDA). The developers sued the TDA on August 14, 2008, one week after the TDA prematurely terminated the developers' exclusive negotiating right on this property, situated on the half block west of Elgin between Archer and Brady, known as 120 Brady Village.

Since filing the original lawsuit, the developers learned through the discovery process that the City of Tulsa, and specifically Mayor Kathy Taylor, had irregularly interfered with TDA business and procedures in violation of Oklahoma statutes, which led to the TDA's unlawful termination of its exclusive deal with the developers. The developers allege Mayor Taylor unlawfully inserted herself into TDA operations in her quest to relocate the Drillers stadium to a site directly across the street from the property on which the developers had an exclusive right to negotiate.

As part of the stadium relocation effort, Mayor Taylor recruited a group of private donors which included herself and her husband through the Lobeck Taylor Foundation. These donors funded a significant portion of the project, and in return, were awarded the construction and financing of the ballpark project and the surrounding properties, including the property for which the developers had an exclusive right, under a self described "master plan."

Mayor Taylor's decision to rush this project through during the summer of 2008, bypassing normal process and due diligence, has resulted in multiple lawsuits and threatens to tie the City up in litigation for years to come.

Previous BatesLine entries and Urban Tulsa Weekly columns on this topic:

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from April 2009.

Tulsa City Hall: March 2009 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: May 2009 is the next archive.

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