Tulsa City Hall: May 2011 Archives

The final public hearing on the proposed redrawing of City Council lines will be tonight (May 31, 2011) at 7 pm at the Central Center at Centennial Park, on 6th Street west of Peoria, just east of downtown. (Here is the Tulsa World story on the topic, and here is the graphic of the final proposal and an alternative.)

Although the final proposal had the support of the two Republicans on the Election District Commission, I believe that the alternative from the Democrat on the Commission is a better plan, for two reasons: The alternative plan is less radical -- moves fewer people to new districts -- and it somewhat limits the damage that can be done by pro-big-government, higher-tax Midtown "Money Belt" voters. The alternative is not perfect, but I believe it is an improvement over the official plan.

The final proposal moves central and southern Maple Ridge, Terwilliger Heights, Utica Square, and other upscale Midtown neighborhoods from District 9 to District 4. Based on past voting patterns, I believe this will make it less likely that a limited-government, anti-corporate-welfare conservative can be nominated in District 4, and that even if such a candidate were nominated, pro-high-tax, pro-corporate-welfare Republicans in the district would crossover to support the Democrat rather than the limited-government conservative.

There are rumors that the same political consultant who drew the ridiculous State Senate map was instrumental in drawing the final proposal for the City Council. Keep in mind that this same consultant has been involved in Mayor Bartlett's campaign, the Vision 2025 and river projects sales tax hike votes, and the effort to gut Tulsa's historic preservation ordinance via the State Legislature. It seems reasonable to speculate that the lines such a consultant would draw would tend to work for lines that help pro-tax candidates and work against pro-neighborhood-conservation candidates.

If you'd just as soon not have to fight yet another proposed tax increase for frivolities, I'd encourage you to show up tonight and support the alternative plan. Unfortunately, there's no apparent way to comment online.

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.

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.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa City Hall category from May 2011.

Tulsa City Hall: April 2011 is the previous archive.

Tulsa City Hall: July 2011 is the next archive.

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