Bob Jack’s conflicts in construction

Candidate Bob Jack

Updated: Tulsa County Commission District 3 Candidate Bob Jack, in mailings and public debate, defines himself as a “businessman not a politician” with construction experience that will help Tulsa County. However, in Jack’s case both politics and business can’t be separated based on his behavior. He’s been a politico for decades and ran for office multiple times. It is impossible to separate yourself from what you have actually done.

In this story, a new truth is illuminated for Tulsa County taxpayers. In 2014, Bob Jack not only supported a 15-year tax proposal; he chaired it’s fundraising effort, then worked to help his company get the contracts. The criminal justice tax initiative, in total, constructed a new juvenile justice center but failed to deliver the promised “four additional pods” at the Tulsa Jail.

The “Protect Our County” campaign was established by County Commissioner Karen Keith and Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Bob Jack, worked for Manhattan Construction as a senior vice president during the time he was actively campaigning for the initiative, according to his LinkedIn profile. In theory, nothing is all that bad about working for a company while also helping campaign for a local sales tax initiative – unless the lines get blurred.

After the tax passed, Jack signed the contract on behalf of Manhattan (see graphic following) for the Jail expansion and another member of Manhattan signed the contract for the Justice Center. For the Justice Center, Manhattan sent an estimate totaling $36 million dollars more than the original estimate voters were told it would cost. 

In the end, the Family Justice Center was built by another contractor and the jail expanded, somewhat; but why does Bob Jack not speak about these issues in his campaign for Commissioner? Probably because it’s another mess to deal with on top of his criminal investigation as a “suspect” of ballot harvesting, according to the Tulsa District Attorney’s office and the OK Attorney General office.

Jack has not returned repeated calls from media including for this story.

According to reports in March 2017, now retired District 3 Commissioner Ron Peters expressed confidence the Family Justice Center “can be built at the $45 million price tag voters were promised and serve the intended purposes.

“We have come to the conclusion that the contract we had with Manhattan, which was called a construction manager at risk contract, where they managed the process, was too expensive a process for us to go forward with,” Peters declared to local media. “So, we had to find something better, and that better thing is going to be too hard bid everything out.”

The blog Frontier reported at the time, “Manhattan wasn’t hired until late last year and has been paid $10,000, according to the county Fiscal Office… County commissioners approved a $60,000 contract with Stonebridge Consulting to explore ways the project cost could be reduced. That process included meetings with Manhattan and Selser Schaefer to see how their fees and costs could be reduced… estimate[s] for [the] center [then stood at] $83 million – nearly double [the] promised figure.”

Jack signed the jail contract with Tulsa County representing Manhattan Construction. Apparently, only two pods were built for the jail and one mental health pod. Thus, Tulsa County is a pod short of the public campaign promise citizens approved.

Tulsa County Jail’s construction scope and understanding for the project awarded to Dewberry Architects is detailed in part as follows:

  • The Project funding is a result of a bond passed by the voters of Tulsa County in April of 2014.
  • The project value for construction and FFE for the new portions of the facility is assumed to be $9.3M
  • The Construction value is assumed to be $9.1 M
  • The Mental Health pod takes priority over all other portions of the design and what will ultimately be constructed
  • While the original bond discussions centered on a four-pod expansion, the most recent instruction has been to build mental health and add as many dorm style additions as possible for the available funding.

It is important to remember that small construction companies don’t often win bids for big government contracts. The requirements of insurance, bonding, experience, etc. set a high standard that only a few companies can reach. That Bob Jack as senior vice president for one of the largest of the big construction companies in Oklahoma has not discussed his experience in detail is significant. Jack has also claimed experience in roads and bridges, but that is a construction specialty not found within Jack’s work history by Tulsa Today.

As How to Steal a State writes “the Manhattan Construction connection to state politics lives on, as Bob Jack, its’ Senior Vice President during the time of the investigation into collusion between Oklahomans for a Conservative Future and the T.W. Shannon for US Senate campaign, is currently running for Tulsa County Commissioner… those from companies who buy politicians with dark money in exchange for favors in the contracting and oversight process need not apply. Tulsans should think carefully about the District 3 County Commission race this year.”

Some believe these issues reek of possible political corruption or insider dealing by Jack, where lines blurred. Fortunately, the effort was shut down by county officers who were looking out for the taxpayers. Again, it is undeniably too difficult to separate “politician” from Bob Jack and the voters deserve to know the full truth, not just half of it. It is reasonable for taxpayers to question Jack’s ability to manage their tax dollars without having to watch his every turn.

Update: Bob Jack filed today (August 18, 2022) a civil case in Tulsa County No. CJ-2022-2593 (Civil relief more than $10,000: NEGLIGENCE) against his campaign consulting firm Axiom Strategies L.L.C. The petition should be available online tomorrow and reveal if this action was for the mailing under investigation as ballot harvesting or for some other issue. It is unusual for a candidate to file an action prior to the end of the campaign, the runoff set for next Tuesday, August 23.

David Arnett

About author: David Arnett was once a daily reporter covering City Hall for the Tulsa Tribune and has been a paid contributor for print and broadcast news teams.  Arnett won two national awards as a First Amendment Print Publisher, founded Tulsa Today, served seven years as public information officer in public infrastructure programs, hosted a Tulsa call-in radio talk show for a year and currently provides communications consulting for select clients. Arnett’s work is also found on arnett.substack.com which provides email distribution to subscribers.

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