Tulsa City Attorney Letter Regarding Mayor’s Potential Travel Expense Reimbursement

Tuls City Attorney David Pauling responds to Tulsa City Council action regarding Tulsa Community Foundation’s offer to reimburse the city for Mayor Dewy F. Bartlett’s travel expenses. 

The Letter Follows: 

TO:Mayor Dewey F. Bartlett, Jr.

Preston Doerflinger, City Auditor

Jack Henderson, District 1

Rick Westcott, District 2

Roscoe Turner, District 3

Maria Barnes, District 4

Chris Trial, District 5

Jim Mautino, District 6

John Eagleton, District 7

Bill Christiansen, District 8

G.T. Bynum, District 9

FROM: David L. Pauling, Interim City Attorney

DATE:December 28, 2010

SUBJECT:Donation of Reimbursed  Travel Expense to Elected City Officials

Appearing on the Council’s December 9 agenda was an item for Council action:

“Donation of Funds from Tulsa Community Foundation (TCF) for reimbursement 

of the Mayor’s  travel expenses…”

Remarkably, this item was used by three Councilor’s to launch a tirade of accusations

against the Mayor which, in a private setting, could have been considered as slanderous

and actionable: crime committed by Mayor, need for ethics investigation, misconduct in

office, impeachable conduct, conduct could warrant a criminal investigation, etc.  The

Council Attorney remained mute and later explained that the Mayor had previously made

the same error and was being punished by the Councilors.  Participation in punishment

by silence was not appropriate attorney advisor conduct.

Finally, after several minutes of castigation, the Council acted to DENY the donation

while making great effort to not in any manner express or suggest any wrongdoing by the

donor. The agenda item was before the Council to comply with tit. 12 T.R.O. §505, which


“All travel expense donations shall be approved by the City Council ….  Approved

travel expense donations shall be documented and accounted for as provided by   


Under all the circumstances which had  previously been revealed by the Mayor to the

Council Urban Affairs committee, and who had indicated to this committee he wanted to

just do whatever was right regarding the donation,  and he needed direction from the

Council (which was not offered by the committee), there was no basis for holding any

belief that City money had been misappropriated. It was a matter that City funds had not

already be paid to the Mayor which was now being reimbursed to the City by the donor. 

It is unfortunate that two of the Councilors attending this committee meeting, plus the

Council Attorney, believe they have a proper role in meting out political punishment – a

role which has been on-going for months and is a matter of embarrassment to the City

and political cartooning in the media. The ordinance involved does not provide for such

punishment and, in fact, directly provides for no punishment.  

The fact that all elected officials face the same possibility of Council “punishment” and in

the continuing absence of express direction as a matter of record concerning

compliance, I offer the following legal guidance for all elected officers of the City – the

Appointing Authorities listed in tit. 12 T.R.O. §501A: The Mayor, Auditor and City


1.  Appointing Authorities present evidence of expenditures to City Treasurer for

reimbursement by City check. ( elected City officials control budgets for travel

expenses and are authorized to approve same.)  Reimbursable expenditures are

not limited by 12 T.R.O. §503C;

2. City Treasurer presents City check to Appointing Authority covering expenses

which have been accepted as properly documented by the Treasurer.  The details

of the approved expenses are not a matter of subsequent Council concern, and

the subsequent donation to the City MUST be accepted by the Council;

3.  The donor organization submits its donation to the City Council for acceptance

 and reimbursement into the City Treasury, matching in amount the sum already

paid to the Appointing Authority.

Hopefully, this guidance will be accepted and followed by all Appointing Authorities.  It is

recognized and understood that the City Council has previously adopted written policies

applicable to City Councilors, a very responsible action reflecting concern for defined

policies when money is involved.

Updated 01-03-2011

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