Tulsa Mayor, City Council Debate Lawsuit Defense Strategy

Tuesday, November 16th 2010, 2:48 pm
By: News On 6

Emory Bryan, News on 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the Tulsa City Council disagree on how to defend the City against a wave of lawsuits expected over a corruption scandal in the police department.

More than a dozen people have been released from custody because of questionable testimony from police officers and informants used by Tulsa Police.

Mayor Bartlett wants to hire outside attorneys while City Councilor Rick Westcott argued that city staff could handle the litigation if they had more people.

Bartlett says outside counsel could go to work immediately, while it would take several months to hire additional attorneys for the City.

Bartlett told councilors, "The situation is that we've got 20 something lawsuits that are potentially going to hit us right in the nose and we're looking at a couple of important ones immediately that they're already making a lot of requests for and we simply don't have the time or luxury, in my view, to try to come up with an attorney."

City councilor John Eagleton told Bartlett it would cost more to hire outside firms than to keep the work inside the legal department, and "the idea that the City of Tulsa can't beef up its litigation wing to defend itself, I don't agree with that at all." 

The first estimate of initial attorneys fees is close to $1 million, while any settlement or judgment against the City of Tulsa would cost even more.

The attorney fees will come out of the general fund for city operations, while any payment to plaintiffs will come from taxes on property inside the city limits.

9/1/2010 Related story: Costly City of Tulsa Settlements Could Impact Property Taxes