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Tulsa Mayor, City Council Divided Over City Attorney Position

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The council wants the voters to decide. The council wants the voters to decide.
The City Council's attorney, Drew Rees. The City Council's attorney, Drew Rees.
David Pauling, the interim city attorney, speaks before the Tulsa City Council. David Pauling, the interim city attorney, speaks before the Tulsa City Council.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett [File Photo] Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett [File Photo]

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The Tulsa City Council is expected to give a vote of no confidence against the new interim city attorney Thursday. They've taken steps to let voters decide who should have the job.

11/30/2010 Related Story: Tulsa City Council Chair Predicts Another Battle With Mayor

The battle between Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the Tulsa City Council is not only over the current city attorney, but also over who gets to hire the city attorney. Right now that's the mayor, but the council thinks the voters should decide.

"If the citizens were smart enough to set us in these seats, and the Mayor in his seat, and set the auditor in his seat, then surely they would be smart enough to set an attorney in that seat," said Councilor Jack Henderson.

The City Council acted on the idea that Roscoe Turner suggested for years, as a way to make the city attorney more accountable to someone other than the mayor.

"The city attorney's position is the strongest position in the City of Tulsa," Turner said.

For years, the council criticized City Attorney Deirdre Dexter over her legal opinions. Now that the mayor replaced Dexter with David Pauling, they're opposed to him. Pauling questions the authority of the council's attorney Drew Rees, which is part of the reason for the no confidence vote.

The debate over who has control of the attorneys has deepened the divide between the Mayor and Council and filtered down to Pauling and Rees. 

10/5/2010 Related Story: Emails Reveal More Debate Over Tulsa City Council Attorney Position

The action this week is at the City Council, which is working to undermine the new city attorney and trying to make sure the next one is picked by voters.

The mayor tried to block the council from changing the city attorney to an elected position. They overrode his veto.  The next step is an election for voters to decide whether it's the right thing to do.

In the meantime, no confidence vote or not, David Pauling will serve as city attorney, as an appointee of the mayor.

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