Tulsa City Council Learns Mayor Had Authority To Settle Lawsuit

Thursday, May 27th 2010, 6:31 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK – Thursday night's council meeting was notable for what didn't happen; no new money for the mayor's budget and no discussion of a sales tax for public safety.

5/27/2010 Related Story: Tulsa City Council Won't Reconsider Mayor's Budget

Last week the City of Tulsa settled a discrimination lawsuit that will cost taxpayers several million dollars. That's despite a rule against the mayor making deals like that without the city council's approval.

5/20/2010 Related Story Settlement Approved In Tulsa Police Discrimination Lawsuit

Thursday, the city council got some answers on why they didn't get a chance to look at the multi-million dollar settlement.

Councilors thought the mayor couldn't agree to such a big settlement without their OK.

5/26/2010 Related Story: Does Police Settlement Agreement Violate Tulsa City Ordinance?

The lawsuit settlement requires Tulsa Police to install video cameras in every car, regardless of cost, but the last estimate was over $3 million dollars.

That's why city councilors think they should have been consulted before the settlement was signed.

According to the city charter, "Both the mayor and city council must agree to the settlement, before any claim or lawsuit greater than $1 million dollars may be settled."

Just before voters approved that restriction, the city signed the agreement last fall.

"That is amazing how that happened," said Councilor Chris Trail.

Councilors called in the attorney who worked on the settlement and he says the cap on settlements approved in November doesn't apply in this case.

"First of all on October 29th, of 2009, there was definitely an agreement reached," said Joel Wohlgemuth, Attorney for City of Tulsa.

The attorney said "In October the settlement was reached, in November the charter change election was held, it became effective in January, and in May the settlement was finalized."

And the attorney says the cost to taxpayers, because of the timeline, doesn't require council approval.

The city councilor who pushed for the settlement cap says he's satisfied.

"I think we got, to me a thorough answer on the validity of the process that has occurred so far," said GT Bynum, Tulsa City Councilor.

Councilor Chris Trail believes the will of the public was ignored.

"It doesn't take into fact what the citizens wanted, what the will of the people was," he said. "An ordinance that was overwhelmingly passed, that didn't get followed."