By Tulsa Today Staff
Thursday, 20 July 2006
Two elected local officials have abruptly withdrawn endorsement of campaign efforts by Chris Medlock to win election to Oklahoma House District 69 just days before next Tuesday’s primary. Republicans all and former friends of Medlock, Tulsa City Councilors Rick Westcott (District 2) and John Eagleton (District 7), in exclusive interviews with Tulsa Today, describe the disturbing turn of events that led them to this action and the sense of betrayal felt by both as a result of Medlock’s hurtful comments on a local radio talk show.
INTERVIEW: Tulsa City Councilor John Eagleton, (District 7)
Tulsa Today: It is our understanding that you are withdrawing your endorsement of Chris Medlock for Oklahoma House District 69.
Councilor Eagleton: That is correct.
Tulsa Today: Why?
John Eagleton, District 7
Councilor Eagleton: Initially, I had endorsed Chris because he had worked on my campaign and I was very appreciative. Even though he was embroiled in the mayor’s race, he went out of his way and I was very grateful of that.
Since then I endorsed Chris for the state house, but Tuesday he went on the radio and basically accused Councilors Rick Westcott, Cason Carter, and myself of “the fix is in” as a result of his analysis of our behaviors. The specific item he was referring to was our vote [during a City Council meeting] on the Vision 2025 Trust Authority, a body of legislative actions that had been reviewed at length at a committee meeting. I had been given a pack of materials about as thick as the Broken Arrow phone book to review and I had, in fact, read the entire packet. I ran across several issues that I further researched over the two days I had for that review. I spoke with the city attorney and had resolved the issues to my satisfaction prior to the start of the meeting. Therefore, I had no questions for Mayor Taylor – as a good trial lawyer, I was prepared when the game came.
I take umbrage at [Chris Medlock’s] analysis that because I am not grilling the Mayor, I am “in league” with someone. It doesn’t mean that any “fix is in.” It merely means that I have resolved the issues to my satisfaction prior to the start of the meeting. If Chris had confronted me personally and discussed his concerns with me, as one friend to another, I would have let my endorsement [of his candidacy for House District 69] stand. Because he has chosen to go public with a criticism that I believe is unfair, I am withdrawing my endorsement and have asked him to take it off the Web page via a voice mail message I left this morning at 8:05 a.m.
Tulsa Today: Has Medlock called you back to explain his statements or question your decision?
Councilor Eagleton: Not yet.
(Editor’s Note: Councilor Eagleton’s name has now been removed from Medlock’s campaign Web site.)
Tulsa Today: Where did and do you stand on the Vision 2025 infrastructure development program?
Councilor Eagleton: I was familiar with the Vision Trust Authority when I was in opposition to Vision 2025. I campaigned against Vision 2025. It is not a tax increase I supported, but it is the law of the land having been approved by voters [September 9, 2003]. As I pledged during [my council] campaign, implementing Vision 2025 with deliberate speed and as efficiently as possible is what I have pledged to do.
With the current bid overages, Mayor Taylor had three options: do nothing — which is not an option; ask for the trust authority at another time; or ask now. Between those last two options, I elected to support “now” — because delay is expensive. If we do not lock in construction contracts now with the money approved by the Tulsa County Commissioners and the Trust Authority, we run the risk of running the cost of the project through the roof if the economy continues to expand as quickly as it is.
I elected to give the mayor the authority she was asking for — because it is what I would have done if I had been mayor.
Tulsa Today: How do you feel about Medlock’s comments?
Councilor Eagleton: I feel offended by what was said by Chris.
Tulsa Today: Does the “shot in the dark” style of ignorant criticism aid public discourse?
Councilor Eagleton: Chris is entitled to hold any opinion he wants to have.
Tulsa Today: Having decisively lost his race for mayor in the primary, do his opinions carry any weight in this community?
Councilor Eagleton: As a public figure, Medlock’s opinions carry whatever intellective weight they may carry. I am not going to comment if it is good or bad, because I believe public discourse on almost every issue is good. What I was taken aback by was a person who is supposed to be my friend not confronting me when he apparently felt I had strayed. By not coming to me, but going on a radio show – I don’t know if he was pandering for votes or some other motive, but it took me aback. It was a real eye-opener for me.
Tulsa Today: Have you seen in your time of office anything that would lead you to believe there was public corruption or any evil conspiracy at any level of government in this region of the state?
Councilor Eagleton: The exact opposite is true. The closer I get to observing city employees in their daily behavior, the more impressed I am with the integrity with which they discharge their duties. I think I would sniff out corruption pretty quickly if it was there, but I have not seen any yet. You know, you can poke holes in anyone’s work and make them look silly – if you watch long enough, everyone will scratch their nose.
Chris Medlock, as an ex-city councilor, did know that issue had been addressed in a committee meeting. He knew that I had several days, if not several weeks, to investigate that issue and, frankly, I anticipated the need for authorization for participation in the Trust Authority before it was requested by the mayor. It was as obvious a need as you can imagine and what the mayor said she would do over a month ago as soon as she got the expenses nailed down. It wasn’t as if this popped up Thursday evening as a big surprise. If anyone had questions about it, they could have e-mailed me and I would have been more than happy to answer their questions or find the answer prior to the meeting and before the vote.
Tulsa Today: Is Medlock’s behavior in this instance the kind of behavior that you believe would be helpful to represent Tulsa in the Oklahoma legislature?
Councilor Eagleton: I will let the voters decide that one.
Tulsa Today: If you lived in District 69, would you vote for Chris Medlock?
Councilor Eagleton: No comment.
Tulsa Today: Is there anything else that you would like to add to this interview?
Councilor Eagleton: Yes. Rick Westcott, Cason Carter, and I (the newly elected Republican Councilmen) campaigned as conservatives and as near as I can tell, while we have disagreed on some budget and rate hike issues, we have maintained our integrity to the conservative principles we campaigned on. I am working hard. I see Cason working hard. I see Rick working hard. For a person who should know better (Chris Medlock) to make those kinds of comments – I find it extremely hurtful.
I was at a meeting last night with a group of about 20 people, all friends and conservatives, and about five of them had heard the comments and had reached the conclusion that Cason, Rick and I had been somehow wooed by some conspiracy. That is untrue and hurtful for public discourse to raise allegations when you should know better.
I applaud talk radio and believe the proper watchdog over government is a free press. I am not going to besmirch the personality or the entertainment value of the medium, and while the host had some derogatory things to say, they were couched in the form of opinion and he can have any opinion he would like. If I can’t rebut his opinion, then I would be the spineless waif that he described.
INTERVIEW: Tulsa City Councilor Rick Westcott (District 2)
Tulsa Today: It is our understanding, Councilor Wescott, that you had endorsed your predecessor on the Tulsa City Council, Chris Medlock, in his race for Oklahoma House District 69.
Councilor Westcott: Yes, I had.
Tulsa Today: And it’s also our understanding that you have withdrawn that endorsement.
Councilor Westcott: Yes, I have.
Tulsa Today: Why?
Rick Westcott, District 2
Councilor Westcott: Wednesday morning, on the Michael DelGiorno radio show, during the 7 to 7:30 half-hour, Chris Medlock was a guest, and almost all the interview was a criticism of all present city councilors. Now, in fairness, most of the criticism came from Mr. DelGiorno, but Mr. Medlock was also critical, and he did not challenge or correct any of DelGiorno’s criticisms. Some would use the analogy that, if nothing else, Mr. Medlock held DelGiorno’s coat while he stoned us.
Chris made several statements that bothered me. Most of the criticism focused on the fact that they have not seen the current city councilors asking what they believe to be tough questions – or asking a lot of questions at all – during city council meetings. From that observation, Mr. Medlock drew two conclusions – and in his world, there were only two possible explanations for the fact that we weren’t asking questions. The first explanation was that we, the members of the council, had made a gentlemen’s agreement to not ask questions in front of television cameras, so that we would not appear divisive. Well, let me just say that that’s completely wrong – I’m not even aware that there has been any such conversation, among any councilors.
Tulsa Today: Has anyone from the mayor’s administration or any other councilor approached you and asked you not to be confrontational?
Councilor Westcott: Absolutely not; no one — and I’m not aware of any such conversations with any other councilors. Mr. Medlock also said, “The fix is in.” Those were his words – “The fix is in.”
Tulsa Today: Does this not impugn your integrity and honesty?
Councilor Westcott: It does, and that’s what bothered me the most. Talk to a hundred people, give them that quote and ask them what they think. They are going to think that we are dishonest, that we have reached some kind of quid pro quo agreement with [some kind of] good-old-boy network that, as long as we don’t ask difficult questions, then something good will happen to us. That implies that we are dishonest or that we’ve reached some agreement or something like that – regardless, saying “The fix is in” maligns my integrity. Mr. Medlock did not talk with me ahead of time about any of these issues – and he’s certainly entitled to his opinion – but he went on a radio show and impugned my integrity, and I cannot endorse a candidate who does that.
Tulsa Today: As reporters, we have covered city and county government at this domain for over a decade and if any Tulsa Today reporter found malfeasance or misappropriation – or any indication of such — we would be on it like the proverbial blush on the rose. So our question for you is that, now that you’re sitting in an elected position, have you seen any indication of malfeasance or the good-old-boy system – have you seen it, observed it yourself in Tulsa?
Councilor Westcott: That’s a really tough question, and I want to be really careful how I answer it. Let me say this: Tulsa is a small town. I’m struggling for words here, because I want to be careful – most people in Tulsa “know someone who knows someone.” I recently heard someone say that there aren’t seven degrees of separation in Tulsa – there are only two degrees of separation, and that may be reasonably accurate. Just because someone is involved in a business deal with a high school friend – or a college friend, or a “friend of a friend” – does not necessarily make it a dishonest deal. There does seem to be a pattern of the same contractors getting contracts with the county, or the same contractors getting work on city projects. That is not a good thing. I have not seen black-and-white facts and figures and spread sheets that would convince me that there is dishonest dealing going on, but sometimes I believe the same contractors are used far too often.
Tulsa Today: Are many of your constituents also constituents of House District 69 — constituents that Medlock hopes will vote for him on Tuesday, July 25?
Councilor Westcott: Yes, that is correct.
Tulsa Today: Does this call into question Medlock’s fitness for office, and would you make that case to those common constituents?
Councilor Westcott: In the voice mail that I left for Chris last night, I said “I hope you win; I think you will still make a good representative; and I look forward to working with you on common issues in the future.” So, no, I don’t think this affects his ability to serve — but I cannot give my endorsement to someone who unfairly accuses me of being dishonest.
Tulsa Today: Why would Medlock be so quick to accuse others of dishonesty without making a personal effort to investigate the truth, especially with friends, supporters, and people who have been actively visible during his various campaign efforts?
Councilor Westcott: I am willing to give Chris Medlock the benefit of a doubt. I have been on the radio with DelGiorno and it is easy to get caught up in the back-and-forth of radio banter, so I am willing to give him the room to say that maybe he spoke without thinking — regardless, he said what he said on the stage that he said it on and so I cannot give him my endorsement.
Tulsa Today: Does that not raise doubt in your mind as to how Medlock will react should he be elected to a higher level of government?
Councilor Westcott: That is a fair question, but I must answer "no comment."
Editor’s Note: Click on the links for more on Tulsa City Councilors Rick Westcott (District 2) and John Eagleton (District 7).
Last Updated ( Friday, 21 July 2006 )