Tulsa Mayor: Reassigned Aide Submits Resignation
By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- An assistant to Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett has submitted his resignation to the mayor.
On Monday, the mayor's office reassigned Stuart McCalman after it was revealed that he told Tulsa city councilors the mayor's chief of staff was lying to them.
Bartlett says the move was not retribution for a whistle blower.
Stuart McCalman was the governmental affairs director in the mayor's office.
On Six in the Morning Tuesday, Mayor Bartlett said McCalman submitted his resignation by email Monday evening.
On Monday, Bartlett told The News On 6 he had changed McCalman's job responsibilities because of some emails that came to light.
The e-mails showed that McCalman was talking behind the mayor's back -- directly to the city council.
Bartlett says McCalman could have taken steps to save his job.
"He really did make, in my view, some bad mistakes. First and foremost, he should have just come to me and said that in his view we had a 'Houston we have a problem' moment. If he'd told me that then we could have gotten to the bottom of it and taken care of it," said Mayor Bartlett.
Bartlett says he still stands behind his chief of staff, Terry Simonson.
McCalman had worked on the 15th floor of city hall, directly for the mayor, as an at-will employee without civil service protection. He did work with the city council, as a liaison for the administration, but on Monday Mayor Bartlett reassigned McCalman, so he wouldn't work with the council anymore.
"I think that will be a loss for the mayor's office long term, but the mayor can do what he wants to do and Stuart works for him at the end of the day," said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen.
A February 24th e-mail to a city councilor is part of the reason McCalman was reassigned. McCalman wrote City Councilor Bill Christiansen, "I would very much like this to remain between you and I." And went on to say, "You are absolutely correct on the timing of the JAG grant." "We didn't have to wait for officers to be laid off."
At the time, Councilor Christiansen was questioning the administration's claim that federal grant money couldn't pay police officers unless the officers were laid off first. That's what the mayor's chief of staff, Terry Simonson, had told the council.
On March 25, McCalman wrote to Christiansen again: "Please erase this after you read" and said, "I briefed Mayor and Terry... in their FIRST day in office as to JAG availability" and "It was made very clear by them ... there would be no hiring of officers."
"In that whole process, when I look back on it now, the emails I received from Stuart, just reinforced what I thought was going on," said Christiansen.
One month after the layoff, the city of Tulsa used the JAG money to rehire 35 officers after the city paid them $317,000 in severance.
Since the grant money could have prevented the layoff of those officers, the council wants to know exactly what Terry Simonson knew, and when.
While they investigate Simonson, the mayor is reacting to the emails.
Mayor Bartlett says McCalman has been "partially reassigned" because "his effectiveness has been hurt" but says it's "not retribution."
Bartlett says the disclosure of the "emails made his job difficult" because McCalman "relayed some information that was discussed in a private manner."
After The News On 6 asked the mayor about it Monday, he wrote a letter to councilors explaining what he had done.
Here is the message Mayor Bartlett sent to the Tulsa City Council about the reassignment:
Dear City Councilors,
It is very important to me to maintain communications with the Council as our legislative body. In order to strive for increasingly effective communications with you, I have reached out to a former city councilor to assist my administration.
Clay Bird, Director of the Tulsa Industrial Authority, has volunteered to work with the Mayor's office on an interim basis to continue building relationships with the councilors, and to coordinate information and speakers for agenda items at weekly committee meetings. My management team and I will continue to represent the Mayor's office at council meetings as needed.
Bird served as a City councilor from 2000 to 2002. He also served as chief of staff for former Mayor Bill LaFortune from 2002 to 2006. Bird has an excellent relationship with the Council administration and will be a tremendous asset in that he has experience in both the legislative and executive/administrative branches of our local government.
I am pleased to have Clay's assistance, and I hope you will welcome him in this role. As always, I am also just a phone call away if you wish to discuss any issues with me personally.
With the state Legislature in session working on many bills of importance to the City of Tulsa, Stuart McCalman is focused on tracking state bills and assisting with contacts in the Oklahoma House, Senate and state agencies. McCalman also continues to work closely with Tulsa's delegation in Washington, D.C. to voice the Mayor's priorities on federal legislative issues. He also is increasing his duties in his role as the Mayor's director of Veteran's Affairs.
Former city councilor and longtime city hall staffer Clay Bird will take over part of McCalman's duties.
McCalman sent the e-mails from his personal e-mail account, but because they went to the city councilors' city hall email accounts, they became public records and were disclosed only as the result of an open records request.