By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Tulsa's mayor and his chief of staff have both hired lawyers to defend them against accusations of lying to the Tulsa city council. But Mayor Dewey Bartlett says he only hired a lawyer so he can focus on the business of the city.
Mayor Bartlett reacted for the first time to the report Tuesday. He characterizes what the council has done as "politics and false accusations."
The Mayor's Chief of Staff Terry Simonson is accused of lying to the city council during exchanges like this:
Bill Christiansen, Tulsa City Councilor: "What you're saying is that you couldn't ask that the JAG money to be used for salaries, until such time as you laid off the officers. Is that right, they had to be laid off?
Terry Simonson, Mayor's Chief of Staff: "That's what we were told by Chief Palmer. That's right."
Christiansen: "Is that correct?"
Simonson: "We believed it to be correct, yes, because we can ask them if we can do it, but until you have a triggering event, they're going to say, ‘why do you want to redirect it?' And we can't say, well we might lay people off."
The disputed comments surround an uncontested fact -- the city could have prevented the layoff of 35 police officers by using grant money to pay their salaries.
The mayor is also under scrutiny for his comments to council about the grant money, that he said wasn't used because of the chance of concessions from the union.
"We didn't know because we really did think that the union and the membership would have at least allowed a reconsideration and a revote," said Mayor Bartlett.
The city council has turned their findings over to City Prosecutor Robert Garner, who has to decide whether the evidence warrants prosecution of Simonson and Mayor Bartlett, who has consistently told council he's innocent.
"What we're doing now is replaying history, whether I did right or wrong, I did what I thought was in the best interest of the City of Tulsa," said Mayor Bartlett.
While Mayor Bartlett says he's leaving it up to the lawyers, so is Chief of Staff Terry Simonson, who left on vacation this week.
Statement from Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr.:
The citizens of Tulsa expect and deserve better than what they have been getting from their city government. With that undeniable truth in mind, I today renew my commitment to lead this city. I will focus my energies not on politics or false accusations, but rather on issues that are critical to Tulsans, such as our economy, the current budget crisis, more efficient government, public safety and street improvements.
I will not be distracted by the recent report issued by an investigator engaged by the Tulsa City Council and have hired an attorney, Joel Wohlgemuth, to handle issues related to the report on my behalf. Let me be clear, though – my retention of Mr. Wohlgemuth doesn't mean I believe that the Council's report has any legal validity. I have never and would never sacrifice my integrity by intentionally or willfully misleading or lying to any public official, including the City Councilors. I engaged an attorney for one reason: to allow me to focus fully, without distraction, on leading the City through trying times. Using my time in this manner will enable me to devote my efforts and energies to economic development and job creation in our community.
I sincerely hope that our City Councilors will renew their commitment to faithfully carry out their duty under the Tulsa City Charter to exercise all legislative powers in the best interests of the citizens. The charge of the Tulsa City Council is to work with the Mayor – with me, not against me – and with our City Auditor and all departments to make government efficient and effective so that everyone in our community is well-served. A healthy, forthright relationship between the Mayor's office and the City Council is vital to move our great city in the right direction.
Let us move forward, Tulsa.
Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr.
Mayor, City of Tulsa
Mayor Dewey Bartlett clarified Tuesday two memos he sent to the City Council last week.
The memos, sent last Wednesday, covered two different topics. One reminded City Council members to follow the City Charter rules when asking for information. He also reminded them not to contact employees directly. In the second memo, Barlett asked that one week's notice be given when additional information is to be presented at a city council committee meeting or regular meeting.
"Neither of these memos was retaliatory," Bartlett said. "The beginning of a new fiscal year seemed the appropriate time to address these two issues. I elected to do so by sending each Council member a memo, to be sure that the procedure is understood by everybody."