Two Tulsa City Officials On Paid Leave Over Favoritism Allegations
Emory Bryan, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Fire Chief Allen LaCroix and Mayor Bartlett's Chief of Staff Terry Simonson are both on administrative leave, with pay, while the administration looks into a hiring issue in the fire department.
The mayor is questioning whether Simonson used his influence to get his son a spot in the fire academy - after all the slots were filled.
The Fire Training Academy is not the first step to become a Tulsa firefighter. The first is a once a month lottery that determines who even gets a chance to try out.
This past summer, it's reported that Chief of Staff Terry Simonson asked for - and got - a spot for his son after others were turned away.
"In this process alone that is ready to take place, there will be more than 700 applicants trying out for 20 to 25 slots. And if anyone is shown any favoritism in that process, we don't think that's proper," said Dennis Moseby, Tulsa Firefighters Union.
Monday, Mayor Dewey Bartlett suspended both Simonson and Fire Chief Allen LaCroix, who it's reported gave the order to add the extra spot.
"I don't think anyone was going out of their way to do anything terrible," Bartlett explained, but added, "It's obvious there needs to be a total review of the testing procedure."
There's also an allegation that Simonson got his son some extra training time at the Fire Training Academy. Simonson says they came in through open gates on a Sunday and that getting in here had nothing to do with his being a city employee.
It's not the first time Simonson has drawn fire for his influence at City Hall. As Bartlett's top lieutenant, he's a part of every decision - controversial or not.
He's a veteran of city hall, serving three mayors as chief of staff - and he's run for both mayor and auditor. Last year, the city council investigated Simonson after accusing him of lying to them about grant money for the police department.
"I still don't know what Terry knew, I just know there's an investigation going on and hopefully we'll get to the bottom of it," said Jack Henderson, Tulsa City Councilor.
Bartlett wants the questions about Simonson and LaCroix answered within the week, while questions about the training selection process are resolved separately.
Mayor Bartlett says three people will examine whether Simonson asked for and received preferential treatment.
The committee includes businessman Jody Parker, Sheriff Stanley Glanz and Robert Gardner, a former Tulsa City Councilor. They meet for the first time Tuesday.