Tulsa Mayor, City Council Spar Over City Attorney

Wednesday, August 4th 2010, 5:39 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa City Council and Tulsa's Mayor continue their public arguments, while planning to talk about mediation Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Mayor defended his lawyer, while also hiring someone to handle the media for him.

Attorney Joel Wohlgemuth has emerged as another point of conflict between Mayor Bartlett and the City Council.

He works as a contract attorney for the city and now he's defending the mayor for free.

City Councilor Bill Christiansen quoted from the ethics handbook as her urged other councilors to pursue a complaint against the Mayor.

Several councilors believe it's a violation because the mayor has approved new work for Wohlgemuth's firm and now will get free advice.

8/3/2010 Related Story: Tulsa City Council Considers Ethics Complaint & Mediation

"And now he's providing free services to the Mayor of Tulsa," said Rick Westcott, Tulsa City Councilor. "In my mind, there is no question."

Wohlgemuth has earned $973,000 as a city contractor in the last 8 years, according to council research.

"Is he keeping track of those hours? Is the city paying for that while he's discussing that case?" Councilor Chris Trail asked. "I think there's a whole lot of questions here the citizens deserve an answer to."

Mayor Bartlett said before he hired Wohlgemuth as a personal attorney he asked if there might be a conflict of interest for either one of them and his attorney said no.

Read a complaint against the Mayor's personal attorney and his Chief of Staff

"I'm not an attorney, but Joel Wohlgemuth is a person of the highest integrity and honesty and I believe his recommendation and I believe his advice," Bartlett said.

While a few councilors want to settle their differences with the mayor through mediation, others want to push forward on making an ethical complaint against the mayor and his lawyer.

Meanwhile several councilors want the city to pay the cost of their attorneys, defending them against a lawsuit over open meetings.

"To me it seems a little ironic they're being charged with a violation of state law, an open meeting law violation, and asking the taxpayers of the City of Tulsa to pick up the tab on that," Bartlett said.

The council members have to ask each other if they'll approve paying for the lawyers. The city usually does pay for a lawyer when an employee is sued.

Meanwhile the mayor has hired a press secretary, who will make $75,000 a year handling media relations for the mayor, in addition to what the city communications department is already doing.

8/4/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Mayor Hires His Own Press Secretary