It could be the most interesting race for Tulsa County Commissioner ever. In less than two weeks, former amusement park operator Sally Bell will try to unseat fellow Republican Randi Miller. Already full of dramatic overtones, the race is now drawing some serious charges.
In a News On 6 Investigation, we check the claims being made about how Commissioner Miller is doing her job.
When you win a seat on the Tulsa County Board of County Commissioners, you're signing up for a lot of meetings. There's usually at least one meeting every day.
The commission has its own meetings every week which all three members attend. But the chairman also has to attend meetings of many other county groups.
That's one of the reasons the commissioners take turns being chairman a year at a time. Attending meetings is a big part of the job and it's also become a big issue in the race for the District Two seat.
Since those meetings are public, the county is required to keep minutes of each one. Those minutes include a record of which commissioners were present.
The News On 6 used multiple Open Records requests to compile the attendance records dating back to January of 2007. We started with the meetings all three commissioners are supposed to attend.
First, we looked at the board's management conferences, where the commissioners spend more time discussing issues than they do in their regular weekly meetings.
Last year Commissioner Miller, who was chairman, didn't miss a single one. Neither did Commissioners Perry and Smaligo.
So far this year, Commissioner Miller has missed one, but in those regular Monday morning commission meetings, her record isn't as good.
Last year Commissioner Miller missed four, more than Perry and Smaligo combined. The meetings she missed included the one on December 10th. You probably remember that date. It was the day after the ice storm hit.
Because she missed the regular meeting that morning, she also missed the emergency meeting held immediately after. The other two commissioners used that meeting to begin mapping out the county's response to the disaster.
And this year she's already missed three, again, more than Perry and Smaligo combined.
Next up is the meetings of the Tulsa County Public Facilities Authority which is better known as the Fair Board.
Last year, while Commissioner Miller was chairman, she missed six regular meetings, while Perry and Smaligo missed one apiece, but she also missed 12 special "construction" meetings. Commissioner Perry didn't miss any, Commissioner Smaligo missed only one.
Those meetings are held specifically to update the Fair Board on all the construction projects at the fairgrounds. And it was Commissioner Miller's idea to open them to the public.
This year, with the deadline looming for the work to be finished, Commissioner Miller's attendance hasn't been much better. She's missed three regular meetings so far.
Her attendance at the special construction meetings has been about the same as last year. She's missed seven already this year.
Commissioner Miller wouldn't talk to us on camera about her attendance record, but the two women who want her job did. And both Democrat Karen Keith and Republican Sally Bell agree on the issue.
"Whoever has that job, and it is a job, should be there. There's no excuse not to be there," said Sally Bell.
"At many of these meetings, if you're the chairman, you're representing the entire county so it's absolutely critical that the commissioners attend the meetings or the citizens absolutely are not represented," said Karen Keith.
That may be the biggest issue, Miller's attendance at meetings where the chairman is the only county commissioner expected to attend.
When Commissioner Miller was chairman last year, she was absent a lot. Last year she missed 11 meetings of the Employee Retirement System of Tulsa County. She did send a deputy to three of the meetings she missed. This year, Chairman Fred Perry has missed only one.
Last year, Chairman Miller missed 11 meetings of the Board of Tax Roll Corrections, sending a deputy to seven of them. This year chairman Perry has missed two, but instead of sending a deputy, he sent fellow commissioner John Smaligo.
Commissioner Miller's worst attendance record was at the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. She missed 29 of the Commission's 33 meetings last year.
After taking over as chairman this year, Commissioner Perry has had trouble making the meetings, too. But after missing six meetings, he did something about it.
Last month Perry convinced the other commissioners to take some of the burden off the chairman, splitting up the meeting requirements among all three commissioners. It was the same idea he used at the beginning of the year, when he got the Fair Board to change its bylaws to allow him to designate John Smaligo as chairman.
But even without the changes, both of Commissioner Miller's rivals say she has no excuse. They say the meetings are scheduled during the day, when it's convenient for the commissioners, not constituents, to attend.
"It's not fair to the citizens if you're not attending, if you're not in your office, if you're not responsive, then you're really not serving the citizens of the county and I think that's an issue," said Keith.
"The thing about the attendance, if you were in the private sector, and you didn't work, you'd be fired," said Bell.
As we mentioned, Commissioner Miller refused our requests for an on camera interview for this story. But she did say she works 24-7, and says she doesn't feel it's necessary to justify her hard work as a county commissioner.
She says she has a very tight schedule and for anyone to assume otherwise is absolutely unfair.
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