Tulsa City Council Looks Into Fire Department's Hiring Practices

Tuesday, September 27th 2011, 7:56 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma – The Tulsa City Council looked into the hiring practices of the fire department after accusations of favoritism led to the suspension of two city officials.

Tulsa's mayor put his Chief of Staff and the Fire Chief on leave while an investigation into whether the Fire Chief added the Chief of Staff's son to an applicant's list that was already full.

9/23/2011 Related Story: Favoritism Allegations Lead To Suspension Of Tulsa Fire Chief, Bartlett's Chief Of Staff

Mayor Bartlett says while one group will look at that, another committee will look over fire department hiring. But that's getting some skeptical looks.

Partly following the mayor's lead, the city council focused not on the question of favoritism - but whether what's broken is the hiring process.

"We want the best people, we want the best process," said Ray Driskell, Acting Tulsa Fire Chief.

"They'll probably come back to us and say there are flaws in the process, and I don't think there are flaws in the process," Mayor Bartlett said.

The city council's opinion seems to be the process works fine.

"It doesn't appear the system is broke at all in my opinion," Said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen.

Christiansen said it appears a good process was corrupted by someone asking for - and getting - preferential treatment in hiring.

"There's a finite number of seats and so now there's a person who didn't get the seat, who is due the seat," he said.

The favoritism allegation surrounds Chief of Staff Terry Simonson and Fire Chief Allen LaCroix. He's accusing of creating a slot for Simonson's son - when the applicant slots were full.

Human Resources staffer Lori Hannon told the council the only similar exception was for deployed members of the military. Most city councilors were avoiding specifics, but not Jack Henderson.

"It looks like somebody went around the process," Henderson said.

Ray Driskell, now acting fire chief while LaCroix is on suspension, carefully chose his words about what's happening.

"Without speaking to this particular event, the process is working," Driskell said.

The mayor's office says a 3 person committee is meeting to determine whether the Fire Chief and the Chief of Staff did anything wrong.

Bartlett wants a decision by the end of the week, and the two chiefs will remain on leave, with pay, until the mayor decides what to do.