News Column

Tulsa Mayor Accused of Ethics Breach

May 24, 2013

A member of the city's sales-tax watchdog committee is accusing Mayor Dewey Bartlett of an ethics code violation over a letter that was mailed with a city-funded survey to hundreds of residents.

In a complaint submitted Thursday to the City Clerk's Office, Steven Roemerman objects to a cover letter with the survey that bears Bartlett's signature, accusing the mayor of using public funds to distribute campaign material.

"The letter infers that Dewey Bartlett Jr. has done a great job and is much attuned to the needs and interests of the citizens of the city of Tulsa in a blatant attempt to curry votes," the complaint says.

It adds that the city should "reprimand" Bartlett over "unprofessional and reprehensible behavior."

The city paid Olathe, Kan.-based ETC Institute $48,698 in November to mail 1,800 surveys gathering Tulsans' perceptions of their city, satisfaction with city services and priorities.

A similar survey in 2011 was funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

Roemerman told the Tulsa World that he has no problem with the survey but objects to Bartlett's letter, mainly because of the timing, saying residents have received it as recently as April and May -- weeks before the mayoral primary election June 11.

He argues that the letter violates a section of the city's ethics ordinance that forbids city officials from using their public positions for personal gain and showing "an appearance of any impropriety."

In the letter, Bartlett touts the success of the city's first round of surveys, saying that "my administration worked with the community to build public policy based on efficiency and citizen input."

The letter also references the city's 2011 KPMG study, which Bartlett touts in campaign addresses as a major accomplishment of his administration.

Bartlett told the Tulsa World earlier this month that the city sent ETC Institute the materials for the survey well before he announced his intentions to run for re-election and that officials expected the results by May -- in time to set priorities for the coming fiscal year's budget.

He said he did not write the letter with the mayoral election in mind.

City spokeswoman Michelle Allen said Roemerman's complaint has been forwarded to the City Auditor's Office, per the procedure established in the city's ethics ordinance.

She said the Auditor's Office could not immediately say what actions might come if the complaint is deemed credible. The city's ethics ordinance allows for "disciplinary action up to ... dismissal or removal from office."

Roemerman said he could not bring his complaint before fellow members of the Sales Tax Overview Committee because that group is responsible only for overseeing the use of revenue from voter-approved funding packages, such as the third-penny sales tax.

Roemerman ran as a Republican for City Council in 2011.

He said he supports former City Councilor Bill Christiansen in this mayoral election but is not involved in Christiansen's campaign.

Source: (c)2013 Tulsa World (Tulsa, Okla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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