By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- A new skirmish has emerged at City Hall involving Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
Several sources at City Hall tell The News on 6 that as of Friday, City Council Attorney Drew Rees has been restricted from entering the 15th Floor Mayor's suite, but Rees says if that is true, no one has told him. Mayoral Spokesman Lloyd Wright said he had no knowledge of Rees being restricted from areas of City Hall.
City Council Chair Rick Westcott confirmed that he had heard that Rees' access in the building had been restricted but did not have details and did not know who had lodged the complaint that prompted the reaction. Westcott said Bartlett has been demanding Rees justify his job, and Westcott had been forced to intervene.
7/28/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Mayor Bartlett's Attorney Asks Council Attorney to Resign
The situation escalated Thursday night during a conversation between Rees and Mayoral Spokesman Lloyd Wright. Wright and Rees spoke briefly after the city council meeting, and Wright then pulled the mayor aside to relay the conversation.
Friday, Wright told the News on 6, "It's a very, very odd, weird deal that I can't talk about because it's a personnel issue." He would not comment directly on what happened or the reaction to it.
Rees told the News On 6 that "a mountain is being made out of a mole hill" but confirmed he told Wright that Bartlett needed to stop harassing him over his job. Rees said he told Wright that "I've got civil service protection. I have rights," and if Bartlett did not stop, "I'm going to have to protect my rights."
Councilor Westcott said Rees and Mayor Bartlett have exchanged letters recently that concern whether the Council Attorney is a legitimate city position. Westcott said he sent another letter Friday to Bartlett demanding that he stop asking Rees to justify his position. Westcott said Rees works under the direction of the Council and Rees said he answers directly to the Council, instead of the City Attorney. He said the City Authority has the authority to overturn any of his decisions, but he answers for his employment to the Council. The Mayor's position, according to Wright, is that Rees serves directly under the City Attorney, and can be reassigned elsewhere in the city.
Westcott said Bartlett's latest letter to Rees said, "Please explain your insubordination" and demanded information on how the Council Attorney position came into existence.
City Council Administrator Don Cannon told the News on 6 he believed whatever happened was being "blown out of proportion," but said as far he knew, no action had been taken against Rees.
Mayor Bartlett was not immediately available for comment.