Tulsa City Hall: September 2011 Archives

Terry Simonson resigns

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At a 4 p.m. news conference, Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr announced that his Chief of Staff, Terry Simonson, has resigned, according to News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan, who was live-tweeting the announcement.

MORE: Bartlett Jr sent an email to city employees at 4:32 pm:


I have just announced to the news media that Chief of Staff Terry Simonson has submitted his resignation from this administration. Mr. Simonson has been an integral part of this organization's success and I appreciate his service, ideas, energy, dedication and hard work, and especially his friendship. The funding of our present and future police and fire academies are a direct result of his work.

The work of the external committee reviewing the ethics question of undue influence in the admittance of Ryan Simonson to the Fire Academy has not been completed. I do expect to receive some determination from that committee by the end of the week.

Terry will work in a transition capacity for approximately two weeks to conclude his multiple projects and assignments. We have a very talented staff that will take on the management of pending projects.


Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett Jr.

MORE: Steven Roemerman's encounter with firefighter applicants at City Hall a few weeks ago puts the matter in perspective:

Sitting next to the two men who had made it so far into the process on their own made an impact on me. I could see in their eyes how important this was to them, everything about their demeanor, and their speech screamed, "I want to be a Tulsa Firefighter so bad I can taste it!" If they get through to the end everyone will know that they beat out hundreds of candidates to get there. They will feel the pride of being the best of the best. To start that process by cheating is dishonorable.

For a wonderful contrast between this scandal the right way to do things we need to look no further than Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer who refused a shot at FDNY because it would have required a special exception and special treatment. Meyer understands that a man can not attain honor by acting dishonorably.

You may ask yourself, what is the big deal? Why is this important? I'd say ask the hundreds of candidates that follow the rules if it is a big deal. Ask the people also tried and failed to call in that day but didn't have a father that works for the Mayor to help if this is a big deal. This is a big deal because it is a another alleged violation of the ethics ordinance from this administration, another investigation, and another controversy.

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has appointed two committees to look into allegations that Chief of Staff Terry Simonson used his position to get his son a slot in the Tulsa Fire Department applicant pool and to use the department's practice facility without authorization.

The list of names -- three on each committee -- is interesting, and one in particular stands out to me.

From Fox 23:

Sources in Mayor Bartlett's office say Bartlett will assemble an internal and external committee to determine two things: was there any undo influence used? And, can criteria for selection for testing for firefighter academies be improved?

Monday, the Mayor's office announced that the external committee will include Jody Parker, a Tulsa businessman; Robert Gardner, former city councilor; and Stanley Glanz, Tulsa County Sheriff. The internal committee will include Erica Felix-Warwick, Human Resources Personnel Director; Vickie Beyer, Management Review Office Director; and Doug Woods, Training Officer for Tulsa Fire Department.

Vickie Beyer is the head of the office tasked with implementation of the KPMG report. Her name turns up frequently in a large collection of emails to and from Terry Simonson, obtained in response to an Open Records Act request. (I do not know who made the original request. The response to the request was forwarded to me by a third party some months ago.)

The impression from the tone of the emails is that Beyer and Simonson have a great deal of regard for one another, purely professional respect, no doubt, but it raises the question: Can Beyer investigate a matter involving Terry Simonson with sufficient objectivity?

Here's one exchange from November 2010 (pages 199-203 of the PDF linked below). I've ordered the emails sequentially and formatted them for the web, but they are otherwise unedited from the versions as released by the open records custodian:

From: Beyer, Vickie
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 7:49 PM
To: Simonson, Terry
Subject: Relationship with TMUA

Jim Cameron really wants to talk to the Mayor about the hiring of the Chief Technology Officer. I understand interviews are Monday, but Jim's meeting with the Mayor is not untilt Wednesday. It would be if the Mayor doesn't announce his decision until after he has met Jim.

From: Simonson, Terry [tsimonson@cityoftulsa.org]
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 8:35 PM
To: Beyer, Vickie
Subject: RE: Relationship with TMUA

We know about their issue. Heard it from Sevenoaks and Hudson It was a perfect intro for me to ask them they why they don't try competition for IT services and how could anyone say there is nothing in their operations that needs improvement? I don't think Jim is seeing the full picture where our project can be m of help to them. He thinks things are fine yet has issues with the city support services. I don't think a decision will be made that quickly but he needs to starting thinking that maybe our project can answer his concerns

Guess you work like me.

From: Beyer, Vickie
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 8:41 PM
To: Simonson, Terry
Subject: Re: Relationship with TMUA

I think we'll get there. I just want to guard the relationships until we do.

Not as prolific as you are - but always thinking!

From: Simonson, Terry [tsimonson@cityoftulsa.org]
Sent: Saturday, November 06,20108:46 PM
To: Beyer, Vickie
Subject: RE: Relationship with TMUA

I too want to keep the relationships. I think you are my countweight: because after 20 years being a courtroom lawyer and advocate, I take my cause or my client the whole distance and to the mat when I believe in them. That can be a little overwhelming to some folks who aren't used to a relentless advocate but I don't like to lose But there is a place for the kinder gentler approach which I can show at times. Just remind me once in awhile.

From: Beyer, Vickie
Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 8:37 PM
To: Simonson, Terry
Subject: Re: Relationship with TMUA

It's part of my job as president of the fan club!

From: Simonson, Terry [tsimonson@cityoftulsa.org)
Sent: Sunday, November 07,2010 6:19 PM
To: Beyer, Vickie
Subject: RE: Relationship with TMUA

Thank you Ms. President.

Simonson also holds Beyer in high regard, and this email from December 27, 2010, suggests that he may have had some influence in her obtaining her current position as head of the Management Review Office (page 34 of the PDF of emails linked below):

From: Simonson, Terry [tsimonson@cityoftulsa.org]
Sent: Monday, December 27,2010 1:30 PM
To: Doerflinger, Preston; Michael Brink
Cc: Jeff Stava
Subject: RE: Visit Schedule


This for this update. Since I sent to you the organization chart of the MRO which was established this past fall, we have discussed some possible personnel changes. The Mayor, Preston, and I believe we need to have a manager in charge of the MRO. At this point Preston and I do the best we can on a limited basis but its clear more day to day oversight is needed. We seem to be in agreement that the person currently on staff best fit for this role is Vickie Beyer. You met her when you were here. Vickie, who is a CPA, has 13 years of management experience with the city and truly grasps what we are trying to do. She is extremely competent and dedicated. One of the other staffers, Cathy Criswell, may be returning to direct our Risk Management Department. Cathy, who is also a CPA, was the risk manager before we moved her to the MRO. Cathy and I have discussed this change. These changes we would plan in January. That would leave, in the MRO, Vickie, Kelly Brader who moved to the MRO from Preston's internal auditing department and is fitting into the MRO very well and like Vickie is extremely competent, and Lydia Bracken.

Look forward to seeing you soon.



Download the emails: Terry Simonson emails, November 1, 2010, through January 5, 2011, 232 page PDF file (5 MB)

KOTV: Two Tulsa city officials on paid leave over favoritism allegations

KJRH: Mayor puts city leaders on paid administrative leave

An interesting detail in the KJRH story:

2NEWS put in an open records request for the emails between fire administrators regarding Ryan Simonson almost three weeks ago. We only just received them Monday [September 26, 2011].

Simonson and son

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So Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr has placed Chief of Staff Terry Simonson and Fire Chief Allen LaCroix on paid leave pending an investigation into emails suggesting that Simonson's intervention with LaCroix allowed his son to jump ahead of the line to apply for a position as a Tulsa firefighter and Simonson and son's alleged unauthorized use of the Fire Department's training center.

The emails from Simonson to LaCroix were from late June. It's my understanding that the situation was well known around City Hall by August. The incident at the training center happened on September 3. So why did we only see news reports about this after the city primary election?

News about the appearance of impropriety on the part of Bartlett Jr's right-hand man might have reminded voters about the misinformation from the Mayor's Office to the Council about the Federal JAG grant, where correct information could have prevented police layoffs. It might have reminded voters that councilors had good reason not to trust Bartlett Jr or his staff, good reason to resist Bartlett Jr from time to time. It might have undercut the ignorant and widespread "bickering" meme that did such political damage to incumbent councilors.

UPDATE Monday, 2011/09/26: KRMG's April Hill spoke to me about this blog entry, and KRMG's Nicole Burgin spoke to City Councilor Bill Christiansen about the controversy.

Councilor Bill Christiansen says he requested internal emails within the Tulsa fire department that leads him to believe that influence was used to get Simonson's son into the pool for firefighter testing after it was full.

"After seeing the emails and seeing the comments made by some of the people in the process that kind of objected to doing what they were being asked to do, yeah, there were some things asked for that shouldn't have been asked for," says Christiansen.

There's been some uproar on the web over a video clip from George Kaiser's speech to the Rotary Club of Tulsa on July 8, 2009. Here's the video and the text of the clip, as transcribed by Reason Hit and Run:

The last major initiative is the federal Stimulus package. Jim East and Bev Anderson are working with us full-time for a while to reflect the fact that there's never been more money shoved out of the government's door in world history and probably never will be again than in the last few months and the next 18 months. And our selfish parochial goal is to get as much of it for Tulsa and Oklahoma as we possibly can.


So we've helped a number of entities try to make effective grant requests for this funding. We've secured more than $40 million extra for Tulsa so far. We've made multiple trips to Washington to tell the story in education and health care and energy to the respective cabinet secretaries in each of those areas and almost all the key players in the west wing of the White House. So that will be a strong effort going forward.

We're trying to get Tulsa selected as a pilot project in various programs like Promise Neighborhoods, Race To the Top, innovation initiatives, challenge grants for early childhood education and so forth. And we have the almost unique advantage in that we can say, "Whatever you do we'll match with private funding and we'll watch over it, because we don't want to be embarrassed with the way our money is spent and so we won't make you be embarrassed with the way your money is spent either."

This is plenty disturbing, but it's not some sort of smoking gun for the Solyndra scandal. Kaiser is clearly referring to assisting local non-profits to apply for federal grants.

Wouldn't it have been wonderful to hear Kaiser say something like this: "I've spoken to my friend President Obama, and I've been successful in persuading him that a massive expansion of government pork barrel spending is the worst thing we can do for our economy. Instead, the President will be pushing for a free-market-oriented reform of our health care industry, relieving employers of their worries about impact of health care reform on the cost of hiring and keeping employees on the payroll." But that didn't happen.

The most disturbing aspect of this clip is that Tulsa's business leaders applauded and cheered at the idea of robbing future generations to fund Kaiser-favored projects.

John Sexton of Verum Serum writes:

Frankly I can think of no better condemnation of the corruption and utter futility of the Obama stimulus then the fact that here you have one of the wealthiest philanthropists in America, a man with nearly $10 billion in personal assets, openly stating his intention to grab as much stimulus money as he possibly could, like every other pig at the trough. Is this the proper role of government, to take hard-earned dollars from tax payers (and their children and grandchildren) to fund the vanity projects of multi-billionaires, well-intentioned or not, who just so happen to have the right political connections?

A special event coming up in just a couple of hours: There are only a few competitive council races remaining for November, but the ballot will also feature charter amendments affecting the basic form of government. TulsaNow has gathered the former mayors of Oklahoma's two largest cities to talk about the respective forms of government. Rodger Randle led the effort to move from the at-large commission form of government to the strong mayor / council-by-district form in 1989, during his term as mayor.

City Manager? Strong Mayor? You decide!

Tulsans will be asked on November 8th whether to vote YES and change the city to a "city manager" style of government or vote NO to keep the City operating the way it is. Unfortunately, this is not a clear issue and the current city hall problems make it even cloudier.

Tonight, everyone can find clarity at TulsaNow's free public forum on this very issue. Former Tulsa Mayor Rodger Randle will speak on our current "Strong Mayor" system and why it works, while Former OKC Mayor Kirk Humphreys will speak on OKC's "City Manager" style and why it works.

You may never get an opportunity like this again. See you tonight!

Where: TCC Metro Campus Philips Auditorum. (Entrance on 9th St)
When: 5:30pm
Cost: Free!

(I hope I'm wrong, but, given some of his political connections in Tulsa, I have a funny feeling that Humphreys will wind up saying that city manager/council may be OK for OKC, but Tulsa really needs at-large councilors and the mayor as council chairman (in other words, the Save Our Tulsa for Our Kind, Dahling, proposals).

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:

Roemerman_Yard_Sign.jpgWe begin the BatesLine roundup of the 2011 Tulsa City Council primary races with an easy choice. I'm proud to endorse my friend, Steven Roemerman, for District 7 councilor. This endorsement is for both the primary and general election. While the other men running seem to be good folks, Steven Roemerman is the only candidate on the ballot who brings to the table nearly a decade of passionate and principled conservative involvement in local issues.

Shortly after graduating college in 1998, Steven came to Tulsa, his new bride's hometown, and went to work as a computer programmer for Avis/Budget, still his employer 13 years later. Interested in government since college, he began paying close attention to local politics in his adopted hometown, working as a Republican precinct official and volunteering for campaigns.

I've known Steven for at least eight years, and what follows are my personal observations of his character, energy, intelligence, and devotion to public service.

As Steven became more involved in local politics, he started a blog in 2005, Roemerman on Record, commenting on local, state, and national news and items of interest in the world of technology. Often, Steven would provide first-hand coverage of local news events, with photos, videos, summaries and analysis of public meetings, events that mattered to many Tulsans, but which mainstream media seemed to consider too complicated or insignificant to cover.

It's a testament to Steven's intelligence, temperament, and character that, although he had campaigned for fellow Republican Jim Mautino's 2006 reelection, the man who beat Mautino, Democrat Dennis Troyer, appointed Steven to the city's sales tax overview committee (STOC) in 2007. Steven was reappointed to the committee by Republican District 7 Councilor John Eagleton. (Eagleton is not running for re-election.)

Steven Roemerman is a careful student of local issues, applying the same gifts of analysis and problem-solving that he uses every day in his job as a computer programmer. His time on the STOC has made him familiar with the city budget process, capital improvements, Open Meetings and Open Records acts -- the nuts and bolts of the way the City of Tulsa spends and is held accountable for our tax dollars. As an active observer of politics citywide, he's also encountered non-financial issues -- zoning and planning, charter amendments, and neighborhood inspections, to name a few -- and he's gotten to know public officials and neighborhood leaders from every district. Few first-time candidates are as well-prepared as Steven Roemerman to be a great councilor from his first day on the job.

You can see that breadth of understanding on the issues page of his website. A solid fiscal and social conservative, Roemerman believes Tulsans are Taxed Enough Already and will oppose proposals that would raise our combined sales tax rate above its current level. He opposes the use of eminent domain for private gain, and supports a zoning process that is transparent, clear, protecting property owners without over-regulating. Noting the council's role in approving mayoral appointments to authorities, boards, and commissions, Roemerman pledges to "ensure that Tulsans from all districts are represented on these authorities, boards and commissions and to provide independent judgment on all nominees to these important boards and commissions."

As an IT professional and thirty-something, Steven would help to diversify the council in age and life experience.

Steven has three children in Union Public Schools, where his wife Stacey serves as a homeroom mother. The Roemermans are residents of Hampton South neighborhood; Stacey serves on the homeowners' association's board. They are members of Carbondale Assembly of God, where Steven and Stacey volunteer with Kindergarten through 5th Grade boys in the church's Wednesday night program.

Steven Roemerman has been endorsed by the Tulsa Area Republican Assembly and by the FOP. The FOP's endorsement states:

Among Republicans running for District 7, Steven Roemerman has the independence, knowledge of public safety and city budget issues. He is the only candidate for District 7 with first-hand knowledge of City finances because of his service on the City's Sales Tax Oversight Committee. We believe this combination makes Steve the best Republican candidate for City Council, District 7.

I agree wholeheartedly. I'm proud to call him my friend, and I'm proud to endorse Steven Roemerman for Tulsa District 7 City Councilor.


Urban Tulsa Weekly's feature story on the District 7 race

From 2002, my take on the qualities of a good City Councilor, and why the City Council matters


Roemerman has two opponents in the primary: Tom Mansur, a civil engineer with SAIC (formerly the Benham Group), and Elliott Parker Sr., a retired military officer and civil magistrate from Chesapeake, Va. I met them both for the first time at KRMG's Council-rama on Tuesday. Both seem like reasonable, intelligent people, but both only now appear to be paying attention to local issues.

Mansur has, sadly, fallen in with the wrong crowd; Karl Ahlgren is a consultant and Jim East, a staffer for former Democrat Mayor Susan Savage (and a former co-worker of Mansur's at Benham Group), is an adviser to his campaign; he's been endorsed by the council-suer and SOT member who are working with Ahlgren, and he's been endorsed and provided with $2,500 in funding by the Tulsa Metro Chamber. Mansur has an impressive resume in the field of water resources; he might make a good pick for the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, but he doesn't offer the breadth of knowledge of city issues or the track record of principled involvement that Steven Roemerman brings to the table.

Parker was a career Navy medic who also served as a court-certified mediator in Virginia before moving to Oklahoma in 2006. What brought him to Oklahoma? As a young man (one of 10 children), a childless Oklahoma couple "adopted" him, bringing him to the state for holidays and taking him along on their travels. When he was ready to retire and leave Virginia, he remembered Oklahoma and its people fondly. Parker seems like a sincere and devoted citizen, intelligent and well-spoken with a depth of life experience, but he's a novice when it comes to City of Tulsa issues.

Good men both, but not nearly as ready as Steven Roemerman is to be a great city councilor.

UPDATE: Tom Mansur is not such good guy after all. His campaign has sent out a smear postcard claiming that Roemerman's been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. The only city employee organization to endorse Roemerman is the Fraternal Order of Police. According to the FOP, Mansur also sought their endorsement, but the FOP was concerned by Mansur's choice of campaign consultant, Karl Ahlgren.

About this Archive

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

Tulsa City Hall: August 2011 is the previous archive.

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