Tulsa Hires Firm To Conduct Probe

Friday, January 30th 2009, 2:04 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa has hired outside experts to handle an investigation of the Public Works Department.  They hope to have a report ready for the public in less than 60 days.

It was just eight days ago that federal indictments were unsealed.  The biggest part of the case centers on a man who quit the city after he was accused of taking kickbacks.

Related story: 1/22/2009  Tulsa Mayor Reacts To Indictments

The mayor picked a local law firm and out of state forensic audit team to start work figuring out how much money the city lost and whether there is any other corruption that has gone undetected.

"Our goal is in addition to getting it right, is to rebuild the public confidence in the City of Tulsa," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

One division of public works is the focus of the audit that the mayor says will cost $90,000.  A lawyer will lead the investigation with help from the auditors.

"Obviously we're just at the beginning stages so I'm not sure what will be the final product and what names, if any, will be in the final report, but we do intend to do a very thorough review and provide some concrete recommendations," said attorney Steve Broussard with Hall-Estill Law Firm.

The corruption case centers on contracts for road building and repair.  All were handled by Albert Martinez, an engineer who was in a position to influence the selection of contractors for the work.

The mayor shut down 49 road projects last week so the city could check over the paperwork.  All payments were stopped, but now the checks are flowing out of city hall again.

"On the construction contracts, it was only on final payment, and we've added about five additional steps in the process prior to final payment being made," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

The U.S. Attorney's Office told the city how the money was stolen.  The mayor says the next step is to put policies in place to prevent it from happening again.

As one step in the process, the mayor had her management staff sign loyalty oaths promising they weren't stealing and didn't know anyone who was.