Tulsa City Council, Mayor Argue Over Council Attorney Position

Thursday, September 30th 2010, 9:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- While Tulsa's Mayor and City Council have publicly expressed a desire to move on from their disagreements, privately, at least one argument continues to escalate.

That's the disagreement over whether the city council should have its own attorney, a position held by Drew Rees.

9/24/2010 Related Story: Sources: City Council Attorney Restricted From Tulsa Mayor's Office

The News On 6 obtained copies of letters back and forth over it and found that the Mayor's questions about Rees' job came just as Rees was advising councilors on an investigation of the mayor.

Read the letters 

The back and forth over the Council Attorney started with a letter from Mayor Bartlett's lawyer in late July.

Joel Wohlgemuth wrote to Council Attorney Drew Rees: "You have no authority to act as Council Attorney…We demand that you resign." He went on to say "Your salary is a misappropriation of funds."

Two days later he wrote again.

"It is beyond belief that you would continue to provide advice to the City Council. You purport to hold the position of "Council Attorney." It is apparent that these actions by you and the City Council are deliberate, malicious and vindictive and designed to harm the mayor and his Chief of Staff."

In September, the Mayor personally starting writing to Rees

"Provide me with the following…the authority...by which you assumed and continue to act as Council Attorney."

That got a reply from Council chair Rick Westcott, asking the Mayor: "I request that you address all letters...to the Council management."

Bartlett wrote back: "I sent a letter to you requesting you provide me with certain documents and information....you have failed to respond to my request and no explanation of your insubordination has been given."

This time Westcott wrote back more forcefully: "You do not have the authority to contact Council Staff directly. Please reconsider your attacks on Council employees."

Just this past Tuesday, Bartlett replied that his letters "do not constitute an attack and said that Rees was given an opportunity to respond to questions about "his alleged position.  I continue to expect direct and timely responses to me from employees...including Mr. Rees."

In a separate development Thursday, the city attorney, Deidre Dexter, resigned, effective in December. Several city councilors have strongly criticized Dexter's work and said while they have confidence in their own attorney, they had no confidence in her.