Commission's Chief Deputy Investigated

Monday, February 11th 2008, 9:58 pm
By: News On 6

There is controversy over the employment of a high-ranking Tulsa County employee.  Terry Simonson is a former candidate for mayor, who was hired by the county commissioners last summer.  News On 6 anchor Terry Hood reports he's being accused of working a second job, while he's on the clock for the county.

After two unsuccessful bids for mayor, Simonson continued working as an attorney.  But then last June he decided to take a job as chief deputy for Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller.

The move was surprising for two reasons.

First, the three county commissioners already had a chief deputy, former Assistant District Attorney Paul Wilkening.  And taking the new $87,000-a-year job also meant Simonson would have to close down his law practice.  But some say that's the problem, he hasn't done that.

A check of court documents shows three cases filed by Simonson months after he took the job with the county.  They include a foreclosure case filed only a month ago.

Simonson's boss is sympathetic to his situation.

"He's probably closing out cases, as far as what he had done, previously," said Tulsa County Commissioner Randi Miller.

Simonson wouldn't agree to an interview on camera, but says it's just taking a while to close down his practice.  He says in some cases he accepted retainers from clients, who didn't decide to file cases until months later.

That's not the case in one of the latest filings.

In court documents he filed only a month ago, Simonson is listed as Commissioner Miller's attorney in her divorce case.  She says he simply filed the paperwork for her as a favor, and received no fee.

Miller is also not sure if the county has a policy that prevents an employee from working a second job that conflicts with his county employment.

"Oh I'm sure we probably do. That's something that I'd have to look into, and discuss with the human resource director.  We don't talk about personnel issues, especially on camera," said Miller.

The News On 6 talked to the county's personnel director.  He says there is no written policy forbidding an employee from holding a second job, even one that conflicts with his county job.  He says it's up to the individual's supervisor to determine what's acceptable.  But in this case that supervisor could also be considered his client.