Does Police Settlement Agreement Violate Tulsa City Ordinance?

Wednesday, May 26th 2010, 2:09 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News on 6

TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa city council thought it couldn't happen.

"That was the reason we passed that charter amendment, overwhelmingly, so something like this couldn't happen," said Chris Trail, Tulsa City Councilor.

Voters changed the charter last year to make sure the mayor couldn't sign off on million dollar judgments against the city without council approval. The mayor alone had the authority to approve  the settlements before.  After former Mayor Kathy Taylor approved a $7 million settlement, the council sought the additional power and voters agreed.

But last week the city settled a discrimination lawsuit against the police department that will cost millions of dollars and didn't ask for the council's opinion.

5/26/2010  Related Story: Detective Has Concerns About TPD Settlement's Specialty Unit Term Limits

"And the hearing that we had recently was just to approve a settlement reached before the million dollar ceiling, or floor was enacted by the charter," said Terry Simonson, Mayor's Chief of Staff.

The mayor's chief of staff says the charter restriction doesn't apply in this case and he asked about it before he signed the agreement.

"And I was assured by all the attorneys that since it was reached before November, it did not need the council's approval," Simonson said.

Councilor Trail doesn't buy that argument.

"A settlement is settled when you sign it," he said.

5/19/2010  Related Story: Settlement Approved In Tulsa Police Discrimination Lawsuit

Mayor Bartlett says after the city has spent $2 million in legal fees it was best to settle now.

"We need to bring it to an end in my view, whatever the impact is on the council and the settlement capabilities," he said. "Well I'll let the lawyers argue that one."

Councilor GT Bynum, who pushed for the charter change, now wants the city's attorneys to answer why it didn't seem to matter in this case.

They'll get their answer Thursday at city council.