Tulsa Council Critical Of Mayor Accepting Travel Reimbursement

Thursday, December 2nd 2010, 6:58 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News on 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- A Tulsa City Councilor is criticizing Mayor Dewey Bartlett for accepting travel expense money directly from the Tulsa Community Foundation, without going through the standard practice requiring council approval of all travel expenses and donations.

Mayor Bartlett said he recently accepted an approximately $7,000 in a check from the TCF, to reimburse him for economic development trips to Washington D.C. and Oklahoma City.

City Councilor Bill Christiansen said he agreed the trips were important, but said he had a problem with the Mayor accepted money directly from an outside group.

"The issue I have is how the money flowed from the outside entity to you personally," Councilor Bill Christiansen said.  "By your action, is it OK then for other city employees to do the same thing?"

Bartlett pointed out that he had personally paid his expenses, then learned the TCF had a fund just for the purpose of reimbursing Tulsa's Mayor for travel costs. Bartlett said he didn't believe he had done anything improper, but said he would have Interim City Attorney David Pauling look into it.

"If it is improper, I'll return the money," Bartlett said.

Bartlett noted that city budget cuts had depleted most funds for travel by the Mayor. 

"I think it's important the mayor's office be given sufficient funds to travel for economic development, which I think is extremely important," he said.

Councilor John Eagleton defended the value of the mayor's travel to represent Tulsa before state and federal officials.

Council Attorney Drew Rees said a 2004 ordinance requires all donations to the city be approved by the Council.

The Council put off a possible "no confidence" vote against the new Tulsa City Attorney during Thursday's meeting. They decided to wait until Tuesday to discuss it further.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett named David Pauling the Interim City Attorney effective December 1, to fill the vacancy left by Deirdre Dexter, who resigned. City Councilor John Eagleton put the "no confidence" vote on the agenda.

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

Several councilors have expressed concern that Pauling would remove their attorney, Drew Rees, from his position as Council Attorney. Mayor Bartlett and the Council are locked in a disagreement over the authority of Rees to represent them, in particular when his opinions conflict with the City Attorney.