Mayor funds flight to Council vote

Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Tulsa City Councilor David Patrick (D-Dist. 3) said he arrived back in Tulsa on Thursday, July 10, after cutting short his Colorado vacation at Mayor Kathy Taylor’s request – and because she sent her private Lear Jet 31A to fetch him.  That sweet ride allowed him to vote in favor of Mayor Taylor’s (D) proposal for a downtown baseball stadium.

Patrick said he was harvesting wheat on his family’s farm during his vacation.

Over several days, Mayor Taylor has refused multiple calls from Tulsa Today requesting comment on this story, as has Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris.

A conservative cost estimate of the fuel for that trip ranges between $1,500 and $2,000.  This is the first time it has come to light that Mayor Taylor has funded a councilor’s attendance at a regularly scheduled official meeting of the Tulsa City Council, but not the first time her family – who owns one commercial-size and one smaller executive jet – has provided air transportation for Tulsa officials.

Councilor Eric Gomez (R-Dist. 4) said the trust required by state law for the establishment of a new business improvement district has not yet been finalized, nor has the “scope of downtown services” been set.  The vote approved the creation of a trust and called for a review of “downtown services.”

“We are going to have a panel of downtown owners, residents and business operators to see what services the people down there want.  We will take a look at the entire downtown service component,” Gomez said.  “We are going to see if some services [currently provided by Tul-Center Inc., a sub-set of Downtown Tulsa Unlimited] should be taken over by the city.”

Mayor Taylor demanded the July 10 vote, claiming the negotiating agreement with the Tulsa Drillers was about to expire and that approval was necessary to prevent the team from securing another location.  Yesterday – and only three working days after the vote – the deadline was extended (for a second time) until Friday, August 8.

Today’s daily newspaper quotes Councilor John Eagleton (R-Dist. 7) as saying, “This is no surprise that the extension came at a point in time that was of no value to the Council.  We were told the vote was a time-critical matter for several reasons, including fluctuation costs of construction, time value of money, and that the contract option would expire …”

While he voted against the package, Eagleton told Tulsa Today he saw nothing wrong with Mayor Taylor flying Councilor Patrick back to Tulsa for the vote.  “I’ve given rides to Councilors Henderson, Turner, Carter and Martinson to various events, and I don’t believe that was inappropriate.  Is the added value of a private jet over a longer period of time inappropriate?  My reaction is probably not … It was an unusual effort for the mayor,” he said.

Councilor Rick Westcott (R-Dist. 2) also voted against the package, but disagreed with Eagleton, saying, “I do believe it was very inappropriate for the mayor to send her private airplane to pick up Councilor Patrick and bring him back specifically for the purpose of voting on an issue that she so clearly and adamantly wanted to push through that evening.”

“Those business owners within the central business district that were opposed to this package did not have such means at their disposal to muster votes against it,” Westcott added.

No one knew prior to the Council meeting if one vote would have made a difference.

Westcott said he would have no objection to this issue being reviewed by the recently established Ethics Advisory Committee for the City of Tulsa.  The next meeting of that group is scheduled for Tuesday, August 5.

Marilyn Hughes, who has served as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission since its inception in 1991, says the commission “does not review actions of municipalities in Oklahoma.”  She recommended contacting Tulsa County District Attorney Tim Harris for his perspective of the ethics and legality of the event.  However, several attempts to contact Harris for comment on this story did not earn the courtesy of a response from his office.

Westcott said, “From what I know, I do not believe this amounts to an ethics violation, but there are people far more familiar with the ordinance than I am, and maybe they should take a look at it.”

“Whether or not [Mayor Taylor] bought [Councilor Patrick’s] vote, it is certainly a practice that I believe should never have occurred and should never occur in the future,” Westcott added.

About the Author:
David Arnett began his career in professional journalism in 1985 and has published Tulsa Today since 1996 – before Al Gore invented the Internet.  He has won two national awards as a First Amendment Publisher.  Arnett is a Constitutional Republican, Public Information Specialist and Conservative Media Critic. This news story may be reproduced without charge with proper attribution and links back to the original source.  Arnett is available for interview by recognized media.

Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 July 2008 )