Tulsa City Hall May Hire Fraud Investigator

Tuesday, January 27th 2009, 6:49 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Last Thursday, the U.S. Attorney unsealed an indictment against a former City of Tulsa employee accused of corruption.  It's been the main focus at city hall ever since, and by the end of the week, a fraud investigator could be on the job.

Related Story 01/22/2009  Federal Indictments Announced

The Tulsa City Council and Mayor Taylor spent hours talking about the scandal:  both how it happened and what to do about it.  They've agreed they want quick answers to both questions.

"We hope to hire a firm quickly, get them on the ground this week, and complete that audit very quickly so we'll have an understanding if this fraud went to any other contractors or if there were any other amounts the U.S. Attorney didn't cover," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

The indictment of Albert Martinez revealed what the city now believes was just under $400,000 skimmed off city contracts.  Though some of the contracts were for millions of dollars, the rest of the money appears to have been spent where it was intended.

"The actual amounts that are subject to fraud are much smaller than the contracts themselves.  It's about 1% and 5% of just a few contracts and just a few payments on a few contracts," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Related Story 01/23/2009  Indictments Halt 50 Tulsa Street Projects

The Engineering Services Division followed a paper trail and found the gap in accounting that allowed payments to contractors for more than the amount that was bid.  Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson is also an accountant.

"I think exploiting a loophole is the way to put it, and we can take some immediate action on this," said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson.

The city intends to seek restitution for the loss, and under the law, could try to recover the full cost of the contract, even though only part of it was stolen.

As for the contracts with the companies involved, the mayor told The News On 6 the city might not be able to cancel them.  It was individuals indicted, not the companies.  So, Mayor Taylor wants the companies to break all ties with the individuals, so they can't continue to benefit from city business.

The city council also wants an audit of the Tulsa Fire Department's training records.   The state health department determined some paramedics made up records of required continuing education.

The council wants more information on who did what.

"If they are found to be guilty, there needs to be disciplinary action.  If they're found to be not guilty, their names need to be cleared.  The bottom line is public trust and confidence in our fire department," said Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott.

The council wants the city auditor to start working on it right away and authorized the medical control board to spend up to $40,000 on the investigation.