Tulsa County: July 2008 Archives

Most elections I'm used to a mixed bag of results -- some encouraging, some discouraging. Once in a great while -- 1980, 1994 come to mind -- everything goes the way I hope.

This comes close to being one of those nights.

82% of Republican voters said yes to Sally Bell and "enough already" to County Commissioner Randi Miller. While I expected a win, my guess was 57%. There's a certain constituency who will vote for the incumbent no matter what. Bell's win is certainly due to disgust with Miller, but the size of the win demonstrates that voters see Bell as a credible prospect for County Commission. That ought to help her raise money and volunteers for the November general election, which will be tough, but it's looking more and more feasible.

We're nearly at 100% of the vote, and it looks like Dana Murphy has won a close Republican primary against State Rep. Rob Johnson for the right to challenge appointed Corporation Commissioner Jim Roth, a Democrat. Dana is a wonderful person, she is extremely qualified for this job, and she has the integrity to do the right thing regardless of the pressure from special interests. A cynic would say that combination is political poison, but it's nice to see a good guy finish first for once. Again, it'll be tough to beat an incumbent, but Murphy is more qualified than Roth for the job (she worked for the OCC for five years, he's been there less than one), and she has been in three statewide elections. Roth has never run statewide.

In District 35, we're headed for a runoff, as expected, between Cason Carter and Gary Stanislawski. There's only a 268 vote gap between the two -- Carter 44%, Stanislawski 40%. It's likely that Jeff Applekamp and Janet Sullivan took more support from Stanislawski than from Carter -- Applekamp comes from the southern end of the district, and Sullivan, like Stanislawski, attends Victory Christian Center.

No surprises in the Republican primaries for U. S. Senate and the First Congressional District: Jim Inhofe and John Sullivan prevailed easily over perennial candidates.

I was surprised that the anointed Democratic challengers to Inhofe and Sullivan won by relatively slim margins over very underfunded opponents. Georgianna Oliver beat Mark Manley by only 55% to 45%, and Democratic turnout in the 1st District was half of the Republican turnout, which reveals a lack of enthusiasm for the recently relocated Mrs. Oliver. State Sen. Andrew Rice managed less than 60% against a perennial candidate.

I was pleased, but not at all surprised, to see Dan Newberry win his Senate District 37 primary by such a large margin. He's been walking the district for a year or more. He's got a good headstart on reclaiming the district for the Republican Party.

John Trebilcock won over his primary challenger by a two-to-one margin. I'm told the over-the-top attacks by his opponent turned off a lot of voters.

Elsewhere in Oklahoma, the Chambers of Commerce and the old Cargill machine attempted to defeat State Reps. Randy Terrill and Mike Reynolds. Terrill won renomination with 75% of the vote. Reynolds's race was closer -- 55-45. Disgraced former Speaker Lance Cargill was a consultant to his opponent's campaign.

In Oklahoma County, District 2 County Commissioner Brent Rinehart got a bigger percentage of the vote than Randi Miller -- all of 21%, and that in the face of financial scandal and national notoriety for his amateurish cartoon campaign piece. But he still lost big, and Brian Maughan came close to winning outright with 47% of the vote. Maughan will face J. D. Johnston in a runoff. I know Brian through state Republican Party events, and I'm happy to see him well on his way to a seat on the County Commission.

My take on the two Northside Democratic House primaries: All of the candidates are pretty far to my left on state issues, none of them are pro-life, and none of them will have a Republican opponent in the fall, so in a sense, it doesn't matter who wins. But Christie Breedlove, running in HD 72, has been a tireless worker for Roscoe Turner, one of the good guys on the City Council, and we're often on the same side of local issues, so I'm happy to see her move forward to a runoff.

I was also happy to see Jabar Shumate prevail in a tough primary against Kevin Matthews in HD 73. Nothing against Matthews, but I appreciated Shumate and Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre taking the political risk to support the New Hope Scholarship program, which would have given partial tax credits for donations to scholarship funds to pay for at-risk students to attend private schools. It was a modest school choice bill, but one opposed by a core Democrat constituency -- the teacher's union and other elements of the education establishment -- so Shumate and Eason-McIntyre deserve praise for putting their constituents' best interests above political expedience.

It's just really nice to know that I don't have to take down any yard signs tomorrow, because all my candidates made it to the next round.


I thought I heard a big flushing sound yesterday.

Irritated Tulsan has a career possibility for the soon to be former commissioner.

740 KRMG's Joe Kelley has video of the real reason Randi lost in a landslide.

Michelle is OK with low voter turnout, and she has some advice for John Trebilcock's opponent:

John Newhouse found out tonight that you should run on something besides a mistake your opponent made over a year ago, and has asked forgiveness for. Trebilcock won with about 65%.

Click the link to see a scan of Karen Keith's pre-primary contributions and expenditures filing for Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2. Karen Keith, a Democrat, has no opposition in the primary, but will face the winner of Tuesday's Republican primary between challenger Sally Bell and incumbent Randi Miller.

Karen Keith raised $73,392 between Feb. 28 and July 15, 2008, of which $16,574 was in amounts of $200 or less. She has spent $42,471 -- an astonishing amount given the lack of a primary. Most of that has gone to indirect costs: $17,900 was spent on outside consultants, $5,000 on "copyrighting" [sic -- probably means copywriting], $4,365 on staff labor, $850 for logo and artwork, $900 on a website. (Hosting is relatively inexpensive, so I assume most of that cost is for a consultant to design and launch the site.) Facilities cost -- utilities, rent, phone, water cooler, alarm monitoring, moving -- total about $4,300. Only about $5,000 has gone into direct voter contact -- mail pieces, phone calls, and materials for door-to-door campaigning.

That's a very high overhead operation, and it shrinks her fundraising advantage considerably. A grassroots candidate backed by passionate volunteer workers and advisers could match her voter contact effort with only a fraction of the budget.

Here are Keith's top donors. Spelling as on the form, parenthetical remarks are mine. I will add other donors of more than $200 as I have time, later. All donors of any amount are listed, in alphabetical order, on Keith's C-1 filing.

$3,000 - Amos Adetula (Wilson's BBQ),
$2,750 - Sharon King Davis
$2,500 - Gary Burton
$1,500 - Patrick & Peggy Keith (Bixby), Robert & Roxana Lorton (publisher emeritus, Tulsa World), Danny & Betty O'Brian (Randi Miller's biggest donor)
$1,250 - George & Edwynne Krumme
$1,000 - Tom & Sue Bennett, Pat & Margaret Cremin, John & Kelsy Eakin, Jim & Sally Frasier, Greg Gray & Sharon Bell, Clydella & David Hentschel, Just Progress, George Kravis, David Sharp, Sid Shupack

Mr. O'Brian appears to be hedging his bets.

This post is a reminder to me to write a check to the ethics commission and get it mailed.

When the Oklahoma Ethics Commission called me back about my request for scans of the Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner race contributions and expenditures reports, I was told to mail a check for $1 for each page requested, and when they received the check, they would mail me the copies. I pointed out to Merlyn Rios, the clerk who handles these requests, that the purpose of filing these forms was to inform the public of the contributors to a candidate and to do so early enough to provide the media and the voters time to analyze the list and take it into consideration come election day. Waiting on the US Mail would slow the process down considerably and might mean voters wouldn't get the information in time to make use of it.

I asked to speak to Merlyn's boss about a waiver of fees or e-mailing the information to me. She transferred me to Patti Bryant. Patti agreed to authorize Merlyn to fax the information to me on the promise that I would mail a check. The fact that I am in media did not entitle me to a fee waiver. The fee is set by the Ethics Commission.

Given the history of county courthouse corruption in Oklahoma, I understand why the ethics law doesn't make a county official the repository of ethics filings, although it would be easier for voters to access the information if they could see it at the county election board.

But it seems to me that the purpose of the law is defeated by the way the commission is handling these documents. They should simply scan these documents upon receipt and post the resulting PDF on their website. Better yet, they should include county candidates in the same searchable database used for state candidates. I could see charging a fee for dredging out and copying old filings, but not for filings in current races.

So far, BatesLine is the only Tulsa media outlet to publish the contributions and expenditures reports for the District 2 County Commission Republican primary. (Here is Sally Bell's report and my analysis. Here is Randi Miller's report and my analysis. Tomorrow I should be able to scan and post Karen Keith's report.) The daily paper doesn't seem interested, and the report filing deadline comes too late for Urban Tulsa Weekly's last issue before the election.

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Sally Bell raised $13,321.36, of which $3,021.26 was in amounts of $200 or less. Bell reports spending $10,848.99, of which $10,191.56 was spent on "general advertising," $336.93 on printing, and $320.50 on miscellaneous expenses. Here is a scan of Sally Bell's contributions and expenditures report.

Here's the list of contributors. Spelling is as on the form. Parenthetical comments are mine:

$2,500 - Jeff and Kathy Rogers
$1,500 - Sally and Robert K. Bell, Jr. (the candidate and her husband)
$1,000 - Will and Willma (Wilma) Arnold, Jeffrey A. and Kathryn K. Weaver, Sharna P. and Steven (Stephen) Bovasso (realtor and anesthesiologist)
$500 - Gary and Jan Phillips (owners of Fantasy Island Amusement Park, Beach Haven, NJ), Sandra and Stephen Rodolf, Janis Curry, Greg and Carol Owens (KMO Development Group), Lloyd Noble II trust
$300 - APA (Alphonse Pierre) Vorenkamp
$250 - Donald and Laura Lehman, George S. Sharp (Sharp Mortgage Co.)

Other thank the Bells and Lloyd Noble, I didn't instantly recognize any of these names, and my various search efforts aren't turning up much. I'm guessing that most of these people are personal friends of the Bells. None of them appear to have any dealings with county government or the Fairgrounds. If you have more info, drop a note in the comments.

MORE: I spoke to Sally Bell's son Robby Bell this morning, and he confirmed my impression. Jeff and Kathy Rogers' oldest a child is a classmate of Robby's youngest. Jeff has a medical supply business. The Arnolds are old friends of Bob and Sally Bell. The Weavers have a son who was a classmate of Robby's oldest son; they have a business that makes canopies for businesses like gas stations. Stephen Bovasso has been a friend of Robby's since 4th grade. The Phillipses are long-time friends of Bob and Sally Bell, and they were part of a group of couples who went on motorcycling excursions together. I was out of time to go down the whole list, but that covers all the big donors.

Today I received a call from Merlyn Rios at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission, saying they had the pre-primary contribution and expenditure (C-1) reports for Randi Miller and Karen Keith for Tulsa County Commission District 2. I'll post Karen Keith's report later; since she's not a primary candidate (she's the only Democrat to file for the office), it's less urgent.

Here is Randi Miller's pre-primary C-1 form. Miller raised $39,500, of which $2,700 was in contributions of $200 or less. Miller reports spending $33,935.60, of which $25,500 has been spent on radio and television. Note that the report is incomplete, as Miller did not list the date on which each contribution was accepted.

In this morning's debate on 1170 KFAQ, moderated by Pat Campbell, Miller said, "Every person that is mad at me, they have an agenda." And she referred to this group of people who don't like her as "special agenda citizens."

It's interesting: When Campbell asked Miller to name her biggest contributors, she mentioned Danny O'Brian and Joe Robson, but she didn't mention George Kaiser, who gave the same amount as Robson ($2,500) and has an instantly recognizable name. Nearly every voter would associate the name of the wealthiest man in Oklahoma with last fall's river tax package, for which Randi Miller was head cheerleader.

(You can listen to the podcast of the 1170 KFAQ Sally Bell - Randi Miller debate here. The podcast of this afternoon's round-table discussion of the debate with myself, Chris Medlock and Charlie Biggs is here.)

The list of contributors, people who like her enough to give her lots of campaign money, sure looks like a list of "special agenda citizens" to me. Many have some connection to last fall's failed county sales tax increase for river-related projects. One is a fairgrounds tenant (maybe two). Here's the list, by largest amount first. Spellings are as they are on the form. Parenthetical notes are mine.

$5,000: Danny O'Brian (P. O. Box 698, Sand Springs, executive of Cust-O-Fab)

$2,500: George Kaiser, Joe Robson

$2,000: Chet Cadieux (QuikTrip), Emmit Hahn (Chili Bowl promoter), Larry Edwards (see below)

$1,500: Jay Helm (American Residential Group)

$1,000: Tom Maxwell (Flintco), Brad Smallwood, Mark Tedford, Henry Zarrow, Tom Kivisto (formerly of SemGroup), Stacy Schusterman, Keith Bailey, W. R. Lissau, Walt Helmerich, Dennis Hall, Lynn Mitchell (of the Jenks River District), Stuart Price (Bill Clinton crony and one-time Democratic nominee for Congress)

$500: Hasting Siegfried, Art Couch (roads contractor), John Walker, Scott Morgan, Ray Morgan, Darton Zink, Tom Golden, Albert Kelly, Montie Box (Sand Springs real estate mogul)

$300: Rick Huffman (Branson, Mo.)

$250: Ken Levit (George Kaiser Family Foundation), Mitch Adwon, Jono Helmerich, Guy Berry, John Gaberino, Stephen Franklin, Jim Spoan, Mike Kimbrel (Jenks River District).

I was puzzled about the $2,000 contribution from "Larry Edwards." There is someone by that name who was was chairman of Global Power Equipment Corp., a company that went through Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2006, emerging in January 2008.

But then I noticed that "Larry Edwards" is next to "Emmit Hahn" at the very end of the list. I found the following info on the "about" page of the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals (emphasis added):

Two weeks after Christmas, the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals arrives like a gift from Santa Claus. In the Oklahoma metropolis of Tulsa, "Santa" is Emmett Hahn and Lanny Edwards, organizers of the four-night race meet since its 1987 inception.

Hahn and Edwards lease the IPE Building Expo Building QuikTrip center from the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority (of which Miller, as county commissioner, is a member) every January to run midget cars around an indoor dirt track.

Given that Hahn's first name was misspelled or mistranscribed, it's not hard to imagine that a handwritten "Lanny" became a typewritten "Larry." The names on the contributor list are not sorted by name or amount, so I suspect they are sorted in the order the contribution was received. Since Hahn and Edwards are listed together, it may be that they contributed on the same day. If the filing were complete, with a date for each contribution, it would be easier to know for sure.

So instead of getting $5,000 from Big Splash owner Loretta Murphy (who apparently doesn't have that kind of money to throw around any more), Miller is getting money from another Fairgrounds tenant, split up perhaps to make it seem less obvious.

MORE: A reader notes that Jono Helmerich is chairman of the Friends of the Fairgrounds Foundation and Tom Maxwell and Darton Zink are members of the board. The same reader notes that the notary public who notarized Miller's form is Ella McKenzie, Miller's taxpayer-funded secretary. Either she had McKenzie notarize it on county time or on her own time, and I'm not sure which is worse. She already had her chief deputy handle some legal business for her on his lunch hour. (I wonder if Miller has a flower fund.)

Also, in the comments, Tasha points out that contributor Rick Huffman is the fellow who built Branson Landing and proposed a similar development for Tulsa's west bank.

Earlier today I spoke to Merlyn Rios at the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Merlyn is the person who answers the phone when you "press 1" to request information about a campaign filing.

County elections are governed differently than state and municipal elections. Like municipal elections, they come under the Public Subdivisions Ethics Act. Like state elections and unlike municipal elections, county candidates file their C-1 (contributions and expenditures) reports with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Unlike state elections, county elections aren't covered under electronic filing requirements, so you've got to call or drop by the Ethics Commission office at the State Capitol to pick up a copy of a county filing.

So I called the Ethics Commission and spoke to Merlyn. I asked her about the required pre-primary C-1 filings for Tulsa County Commissioner, District 2. Pre-primary filings were due yesterday.

(The law -- 51 O. S. 315 (A)(5) -- actually says the filing is due 10 days before an election, but because that always falls on a Saturday, the paperwork is considered on time if it's submitted by close of business on the next business day, which -- barring a holiday -- is the Monday eight days before election day.)

I asked specifically about filings for Sally Bell and Randi Miller, the candidates in the Republican primary. After putting me on hold to check, Merlyn told me that the Ethics Commission had received Sally Bell's report but had not received the required report for Randi Miller's campaign.

I asked her a second time specifically if Randi Miller's C-1 had been submitted to the Ethics Commission. Merlyn confirmed that it had not.

For the record, here is Sally Bell's pre-primary C-1 filing. If someone wants to mail me a copy of Randi Miller's report, I'll post it here. (UPDATE 7/23/2008: Here's an analysis of Randi Miller's C-1 report, submitted a day late, with a link to a scan of the report.)

MORE: Rick Bjorklund is suing the fair board for wrongful dismissal, Miller for defamation.

Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller was a no-show tonight at the After Five Republican Women's Club debate between her and Republican challenger Sally Bell. Miller committed over a month ago to participate in the forum, but she decided at the last minute to bail. I'm not surprised -- the more Miller opens her mouth, the more votes she loses. Her only hope is that her well-funded campaign consultants are able to craft a new, false image of her using ads.

The media was there to cover the event. KJRH Channel 2 (Cable 9)'s Casey Roebuck was there, but I'm told that the station would only have run a story if Miller had appeared. Without both candidates present, the station won't even run the story that Miller bailed out. I'm disappointed but not surprised. Since Glenn McEntyre's departure from KJRH, KOTV News on 6 seems to be the only TV outlet aggressively covering the County Courthouse. Maybe 6 will run a story about Miller's cowardice. (UPDATE: News on 6 did cover the no-show.)

I've seen that before -- during Vision 2025 and other campaigns, neighborhood groups and broadcast outlets let the more cowardly side dictate coverage: If one side didn't show up, the debate wouldn't happen. To their credit, KRMG insisted that their Downtown Kiwanis Club Vision 2025 debate would happen whether the vote yes side was there or not. The "yes" consultants relented and sent someone to represent their side.

We shall see what happens on Pat Campbell's show Wednesday morning at 8. I won't be shocked if Miller comes down with an acute attack of laryngitis. If she does show up, I think Pat would be smart to invite KFAQ afternoon host Chris Medlock in studio to help ask the questions. Medlock was endorsed by Miller to succeed her on the City Council, and if memory serves Medlock endorsed Miller in her race for County Commission. You have to have dealt with Randi for a while before you can see through her sympathy ploys and spin.

Unfortunately for Randi, I think Pat's already beginning to catch on. After two years, 740 KRMG's Joe Kelley is still a relative newcomer to Tulsa, and he certainly seems to "get" Miller. She's running out of media people to bamboozle.

UPDATE: Pat Campbell took some exception to what I wrote in the fourth paragraph above. He had Elvis Polo give me a call at about 6:30, and we spoke on air at 6:40. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify, and I'll link to the podcast when it's up. (My wife told me it took her two readings to get my point, so I wasn't as clear as I could have been.)

As I told Pat, my remarks were a commentary on Randi Miller's slipperiness, not on his astuteness. She will defend herself in a way that seems reasonable, unless you happen to remember the relevant contradicting fact. As well-studied as Pat is -- and the time he takes to study up on the issues is evident every day -- you almost need an encyclopedic memory to be able to pull out the relevant fact. I have no doubt Pat will be able to build that encyclopedia of local political knowledge over time, but it does take time. I mentioned Medlock as a resource because, having lived through and been politically active through the relevant history, he's already got those facts on tap.

MORE: Here's the link to the podcast of my conversation with Pat Campbell. During the first part of the hour, Pat clears up some misconceptions about how he plans to conduct the debate between Bell and Miller. I take extreme exception to the statement made on the podcast page that my comments above "insinuate that Pat is a little 'slow.'" Once again, the issue isn't Pat's astuteness -- of which there can be no doubt -- but Randi's slipperiness. No disrespect was intended, and I took pains to explain that on air this morning and in my update above.

AFTER FIVE CLUB PRESIDENT RESPONDS to "Steve" who called to defend Miller's absence in the first part of the 6 a.m. hour linked above:

What a turnout we had last night at the After Five Republican Women's Group! I hope everyone enjoyed the forum and welcome everyone back on the 3rd Monday of each month.

Unfortunately, there were some negative comments about our group made on the Pat Campbell radio program this morning by a caller that I feel need to be addressed.

After Five, as a chartered club by the Oklahoma Federation of Republican Women, does not and cannot take sides in a GOP primary. This has been stated in the monthly newsletter as well as announced at each primary forum we have held.

At last night's meeting I thanked Dan Newberry, Jan Megee and Sally Bell for fulfilling their commitment to the group and was disappointed that Randi Miller accepted another invitation canceling her appearance. The invitation for all of these candidates was extended on June 17. They all accepted immediately. We apologize that so many turned out to see the forum only to be disappointed that both commission candidates were not there. We only found out Friday evening (3 days prior). We tried to work with Commissioner Miller on timing to see if she could attend both events, as a couple of the other candidates did, however, it didn't work out.

This group is committed to treating all candidates with respect. Realizing crowd emotions can run high in these types of contested races, the officers of the group wanted to be sure it was conducted in a professional manner. Questions were taken from the audience IN WRITTEN FORM ONLY. The questions were not edited, in fact, one question was critical of my husband's radio station. It was asked as written. There were charges of planted or slanted questions being asked of Sally Bell. That is not true. Club officer & Tulsa County Chair, Joy Mohorovicic asked all of the questions written by the audience. We gave no one instructions except we didn't want speeches, we wanted questions.

We were accused of being a special interest group. Yes, we are! We are a Republican women's group. A diverse group of active Republican women who work in campaigns, fund campaigns and promote Republican ideals. In a primary, we often do not support the same candidate, but respect each other's efforts and come together in the general election to elect Republicans. That's the special interest we serve ... the Republican Party.


Cheryl Medlock

President, After Five Republican Women's Group

It's worth noting that "Steve," the caller defending Miller's absence from the After Five forum, said that Dan Newberry was at the Tulsa County News forum. He was also at the After Five forum. If he could do both, why couldn't Miller?

Tonight, the two Republican candidates for Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner, incumbent Randi Miller and challenger Sally Bell, will meet in a debate during the regular monthly meeting of the After Five Republican Women's Club, at Marie Callender's on 51st Street east of Harvard. Dinner begins at 5:45; the program begins at 6:15.

Bell and Miller will debate each other on the Pat Campbell show on 1170 KFAQ Wednesday morning at 8:00.

Last night KOTV's News on 6 ran an investigative report into Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller's attendance record. (On that page you'll find a link to the video version of the report.) Among other stats, KOTV confirmed something I reported in my July 9 column: that Miller had missed 29 of 33 TMAPC meetings when she was an ex officio member of the commission.

This morning 740 KRMG's Joe Kelley interviewed Miller, devoting more time than he usually has to ask some probing questions. I like the way Kelley gives her a chance to tell her side of things, but at the same time he politely but pointedly calls her on some inconsistencies and gaps. I think that's the right balance. (Here's a direct link to the streaming audio of the interview.)

Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller has been on the radio asserting her veracity in her dispute with fired Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund. He says she told him to get Big Splash water park's problems "off the radar," which he then did by not pressing park owner Loretta Murphy (a Miller campaign contributor) for payment, so that Murphy wouldn't have to seek financial relief in a public meeting. She (Miller) says Bjorklund is lying. (Here's a link to KFAQ's Pat Campbell's July 15 interview with Bjorklund and here's his July 16 interview with Miller. On the July 16 Chris Medlock show, County Commission candidate Sally Bell replied to Miller's statements and also spoke about her platform and philosophy of government.)

Miller is not helping her case with the glossy four-color campaign mailer she just sent to voters in her district. While she doesn't outright lie, she presents the facts in a misleading manner. For example, from the leftmost panel:

A Proven Leader

Randi Miller is an effective and dynamic Tulsa County Commissioner -- elected twice by her colleagues to serve as Commission Chairman.

Technically, that's true, but the County Commissioners rotate the chairmanship each year. Miller has served six years, so, as one of three commissioners, serving as chairman for two of those six years is just the normal rotation of the job. It's no indication of her effectiveness or dynamism.

It's strange that this is the only "accomplishment" this six-year incumbent would cite.

But here's the big whopper, from the rightmost of the four panels:


Dedicated to Families

Randi Miller is married and has three children and two grandchildren....

Again, technically, Randi Miller is still married to her husband Gary. But on May 15, 2007, she filed for divorce from her husband, a fact that came to light in a KOTV investigation of her chief deputy, Terry Simonson, and his continuing his private law practice while also drawing a full-time salary as a county employee. Miller's divorce case was listed as one of several, filed after Simonson joined the county, in which Simonson was an attorney of record.

(Simonson said that he entered the case during his lunch hour and only to notify the court that Randi Miller wouldn't be there to make a scheduled court appearance to watch a video about helping minor children cope with divorce. He withdrew formally from the case on March 14. About the rest of his caseload, Simonson explained that he was using his own time on evenings and weekends to complete legal work to which he had already committed himself.)

The divorce is not yet final, so technically, Randi Miller is still married. Her presumably-soon-to-be-ex-husband does not appear in the family portrait on the cover of the mailer, which includes her three children, her grandchildren, and her son-in-law and daughter-in-law, but she is wearing a ring on her left ring finger in all the photos where it would be visible.

The issue is not that she has initiated a divorce or whether she or her husband is to blame for the failure of their marriage. It's that she's trying to sell herself to the voters by creating a misleading image with her mailer.

Why does this remind me of what Miller told KOTV's Emory Bryan about the misleading Our River Yes flyer that went to Broken Arrow voters?

A dispute over advertising for the river tax is heating up in Broken Arrow. City leaders there say their voters are the targets of false advertising. The flyer in question doesn't say Broken Arrow is going to get a riverfront development, though it clearly shows one, and the picture is titled Broken Arrow Riverfront. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports that flyer was mailed to voters in Broken Arrow.

Some of Broken Arrow's community leaders believe the flyer is a false promise from the River tax campaign.

"And it gave the impression that we are going to get a riverfront development out of the river tax which is not true, it's very misleading," Broken Arrow Mayor Wade McCaleb said.

The flyer went to voters in Broken Arrow last week, and includes a picture titled "Broken Arrow Riverfront." But there is no money in this river tax to build what's shown in the picture.

"There is no plan to do anything after this tax unless we pass another tax," McCaleb said....

Broken Arrow's elected leaders are united against the tax and they believe supporters are trying to fool voters with the flyer. River tax supporters absolutely deny any attempt to mislead, and will not acknowledge the picture could be confusing.

"Do you see how that is misleading?" News On 6 reporter Emory Bryan asked Commissioner Miller.

"No, because it not once says this is what is going to happen," Miller responded.

(Here's the video of the KOTV story about Randi Miller and the misleading Broken Arrow mailer.)

So... the flyer never once said that she wasn't in the process of getting a divorce, so in her mind it's not misleading to say she's married.

Well, OK then.

MORE: Randi must have some big money behind her; now she's running radio ads. One of the lines from the ad nearly sent me through the roof: "Standing strong, even if it means standing alone." If there's one thing that has marked Miller's time on the County Commission, it was her refusal to stand alone. She refused to be the lone vote against the logrolled Vision 2025 ballot or against putting Boeing corporate welfare on the ballot. She refused to be the lone vote against giving insiders sole-source contracts for Vision 2025 management, legal work, and bond sales and managements, contracts that dealt with over half a billion dollars.

The ad also touts her vote (eight years ago on the City Council) against the Great Plains Airlines deal and claims that she said no when "an amusement park" asked the county for a "bailout." There's another distortion. Bell's never asked to be bailed out. Through their final year on Expo Square, Bell's continued to pay more rent and commission to Expo Square than the Drillers and Big Splash combined. Oddly, while taking credit for saying no to Bell's on her radio ad, she was bemoaning the fact, in her interview with Pat Campbell, that she was being unfairly blamed for a decision that was made by the entire Fair Board.


Chris Medlock answers Randi Miller's lament.

KFAQ's Pat Campbell asked listeners Thursday morning why Randi Miller was being singled out for blame about Bell's eviction. I e-mailed Pat with a link to the KOTV investigation from last fall. (Here's the text version of the story about Bell's Amusement Park and Randi Miller.) I also pointed him to my column about why Randi Miller needs to be retired, in last week's UTW. Here's the rest of what I wrote to him:

1. She's one of only two fair board members who were on the board when Bell's was evicted who are still on the board. The board consists of the three county commissioners, plus two appointed citizens. Of her two fellow commissioners at the time, one was defeated for re-election (Wilbert Collins) and one did not run for re-election (Bob Dick). One of the two appointed commissioners, Clark Brewster, was up for reappointment and County Commission chairman Fred Perry opted to appoint someone else. The only other remaining fair board member from that time is attorney Jim Orbison.

2. She took a leading and visible role in defending the decision to evict Bell's. She told the media that Bell's wasn't a viable business and was unsafe. (Meanwhile, Big Splash was behind in rent, and, according to Rick Bjorklund, Miller was telling him to keep Big Splash off the radar.) If you go back to stories in the World and on local TV, you'll find Miller speaking on behalf of the county and the fair board about why Bell's couldn't be allowed to stay.

3. She received campaign money from Loretta Murphy, owner of Big Splash. Loretta is the wife of Jerry Murphy, who owns Murphy Brothers, which has a contract to provide the Tulsa State Fair midway. Loretta Murphy made maximum campaign contributions of $5,000 each to Miller's 2006 mayoral and 2004 county commission campaigns. Shortly after Miller received the Murphy donation to her mayoral campaign in early 2006, Miller pushed for granting a new 10-year contract to Murphy Bros. for the midway. The contract was sole-source -- no competitive bidding. Rick Bjorklund, an associate of the Murphys from Wisconsin, was hired by the fair board later that same summer. That fall, Bell's was evicted.

During the state fair, Bell's and the Murphy midway competed for ride revenue. To give you an idea of how much money the fair generated, Bell's received about a third of its annual revenue during the 10 days of the fair. While Murphy had some rides that Bell's didn't, I always steered my kids to the Bell's rides, because they were a local business and the rides were permanently installed, not moved in just for the week. With Bell's gone, the Murphys get all of the fair ride revenue. The Murphys also received, in their new 2006 contract, first right to occupy the Bell's property if it became vacant.

The treatment of Bell's is only one reason people don't trust Randi Miller. While she was a fairly conservative city councilor, as a county commissioner she fell in love with corporate welfare, tax increases, and questionable public-private partnerships with county insiders. She pushed a $350 million corporate welfare package for Boeing, to be funded by a sales tax increase. She was ready to back a $600 million plan to build islands in the middle of the Arkansas River and did back a $282 million river tax which was defeated by Tulsa County voters.

In this week's UTW, I review the record of Tulsa County District 2 Commissioner Randi Miller and endorse Sally Bell as her replacement.

Since writing that piece, fired Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund has been pointing the finger at Miller regarding the decision to hold the Big Splash rent check.

According to the daily paper yesterday:

Rick Bjorklund, who was fired as president and CEO of Expo Square, said Thursday that he was instructed by County Commissioner Randi Miller to keep Big Splash Water Park's financial troubles "off the radar."

The fair board last week voted 4-0 to terminate Bjorklund after it was discovered that a check for half of the water park's 2006 rent had gone uncashed for a year and that it had yet to pay its 2007 rent. In addition, Big Splash's outstanding 2007 balance was never listed specifically on the financial reports presented to the fair board.

Bjorklund said Miller, who was fair board chairwoman in 2007, spoke to him about the Big Splash situation in about June of that year.

"The conversation (with Miller) was, 'Ease up on them and get it off the radar,'?" he said.

Bjorklund said he told fair board members about Miller's instructions during the executive session held to determine his fate.

"I turned to Randi and I said: 'You had given me instructions, Randi, to get it off the radar screen, and we did that.'?''

Miller denies Bjorklund's claim, but what he says makes sense. If Big Splash's financial troubles became public, it would show her to be inconsistent, making her look foolish or even evil for using Bell's business plan as a pretext for evicting them from the Fairgrounds. She had a vested interest in keeping Big Splash's financial problems "off the radar."

MORE: Responding to questions and comments from readers here and on the UTW story:

I was asked about my reference to "irregularities in [Miller's] personal life." In my column, I chose not to go into the specifics that the Tulsa World reported in a February 26, 2006, story headlined "Mayoral Mudfight," but you can read them at that link.

William Franklin posted a lengthy comment at UTW claiming that Bell's Amusement Park was in a state of terrible disrepair when it was evicted. His memory doesn't match with mine, and I think the Bell family did a fine job of keeping the park going when so many family-owned amusement parks in this region have closed, and despite the constraints of their location. They made do while continuing to be Expo Square's biggest rent-payer, and never asked for a taxpayer subsidy. (They were granted an extension in paying rent in the late '90s, but they made the payment with interest above prime rate.)

I took my kids to Bell's at least a couple of times each summer, and we steered them to spend their Tulsa State Fair ride tickets there, instead of on the midway. While the park was not up to Disney standards, it was at least as well-kept as Frontier City (which took my 10-year-old to in 2006), and I had no problem letting the kids on the rides or riding them myself.

Bell's had been making annual improvements to the property. The park introduced a new drop ride in (I think) 2005 and in 2006 had finally reached agreement with the neighborhood on adding a new roller coaster.

The possibility of a new coaster and a themed park first came up in 1998, not in the 1980s as Franklin asserts. Robby Bell and then Expo Square CEO Pat Lloyd made presentations to the Midtown Coalition of Neighborhood Associations that year about the future plans for the park and Expo Square as a whole.

The plan had Bell's expand all the way west to Louisville Ave., with parking for Bell's to the north, and a new main entrance on the north side of the park. The westernmost area was to be quieter uses (concession areas, souvenir stands, kiddie rides). We were shown sketches that had been done for Bell's by an amusement park consultant with a boomtown theme.

In December 2000, the Fair Board granted a lease for Bell's to expand to the west and add a roller coaster. The coaster's construction was held up by a lawsuit from the neighborhood challenging the County Board of Adjustment's decision to grant a special exception for the coaster.

It's true that the miniature golf course was no longer maintained. It was to be the site for the new coaster, once a compromise had been reached with the neighbors. There had been two courses when I was a kid. A single course was created out of the western part of both courses sometime in the late '80s or early '90s to make way for picnic pavilions for corporate events and group parties. I loved playing the course as a kid, but at some point, as mini-golf lost popularity in general (I can only think of one surviving course in Tulsa), I'm sure it became uneconomical to keep it open.

I suspect the reason Bell's didn't first think of building a coaster in that part of the property was because they intended to double the park's footprint and were granted a lease to build the coaster on land to the west, so there would have been no need to reuse existing park land.

The Fair Board could have solved the problem much sooner had it allowed Bell's to expand to the interior of Expo Square, rather than forcing any expansion to be toward the neighborhoods. Neighboring homeowner Scott Trizza proposed at the time that a new coaster could be placed north of the IPE Building, screened off by the building from the neighborhoods.

Irritated Tulsan weighs in on the Big Splash rotting timbers & held checks scandal and Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund's firing by the Fair Board.

I'm not defending Bjorklund, but I do believe he is a political scapegoat. Instead of creating controversy, it appears Miller wants to create the impression she fights it.

Bjorklund's termination places Miller further from the Bell's and Big Splash controversies.


She would probably say "no," but the rest of Tulsans born with heads would disagree.

This years Tulsa State Fair theme is "We're on a Roll."

Bjorklund is out.

Miller is on her way out.


[Big Splash owner and Miller campaign donor Loretta] Murphy hopes "no," but the rest of Tulsans ... you know the rest.

Maybe this year's Tulsa State Fair theme should be, "Heads Will Roll." The rolling starts July 29th when Republicans will deny renomination to Miller and choose Sally Bell as their standard bearer for County Commission District 2. Who better to zealously root out cozy, insider deals at Expo Square and the County Courthouse than someone who knows how county government works and who has suffered greatly as a result of county insider deals?


Sally Bell was on the radio Wednesday morning with KFAQ's Pat Campbell. Hit that link to listen to the podcast of their conversation.

Sally Bell's son, Robby, was on the Chris Medlock show Wednesday afternoon for the full two hours. Robby talked about the situation at Expo Square, the future of Bell's Amusement Park, and a bit about his mother's campaign for County Commission. The show was packed with callers expressing their best wishes for the park and the family. Click these links to listen to the podcasts of hour 1 and hour 2.

Expo Square CEO Rick Bjorklund was fired today, as the scandal involving special treatment for Loretta Murphy's Big Splash continues to grow. Big Splash's annual rent payment to Expo Square of $130,000 was due last October; it still hasn't been paid. An rent check from 2006 of $68,000 was held by Expo Square and hadn't been cashed. This came on top of Big Splash reopening this summer without replacing rotting structural timbers on its slide tower, as mandated in December by a State Labor Commission inspector.

The Murphy family seems to have been receiving special treatment for years. As I noted when Expo Square evicted Bell's Amusement Park:

You'll recall that a Loretta Murphy gave $5,000 to the Randi Miller for Mayor campaign. Loretta Murphy owns Big Splash water park, another Expo Square tenant. Her husband Jerry Murphy owns Murphy Brothers. Shortly after Loretta's donation to Miller, the Fair Board awarded Murphy Brothers a non-competitive 10-year contract to provide the Tulsa State Fair's midway. Murphy Brothers might be happy just to have Bell's gone, so that all the State Fair-goers will have to ride their midway rides.

We learned later that Murphy Brothers' contract gave them the right to put rides on Bell's footprint if Bell's ever vacated that property.

Some have speculated that Rick Bjorklund's hiring in 2006 was itself a favor done by the Fair Board for the Murphy family. Bjorklund had dealings with the Murphys at some of his previous jobs.

Bubbaworld points out that throwing Bjorklund under the bus doesn't fix the problem. The problem is with the Fair Board (Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority). County Commissioner Randi Miller was on the board when Bjorklund was hired and has received maximum donations from the Murphys for her mayoral and county commission races. She was the lead spokesman when the board decided to evict Bell's Amusement Park. The Fair Board failed to supervise Bjorklund and failed to verify that one of Expo Square's biggest tenants was paying its bills. You'd think someone would notice a $200,000 hole in the receipts.

Firing Bjorklund may have been the first step to cleaning up the mess at Expo Square, but the next step is for District 2 Republican primary voters to fire Randi Miller on July 29.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Tulsa County category from July 2008.

Tulsa County: June 2008 is the previous archive.

Tulsa County: September 2008 is the next archive.

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