Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bridge Behind Mayor's Legal Department Shake-Up?

Take a good look at the woman in the photograph to the right, because she might just be the next Tulsa City Attorney and the savior of Infrastructure Ventures, Inc.'s Bixby bridge project, if Mayor Kathy Taylor gets the support she needs from the Tulsa City Council.

Who is she? She's Nancy Jane Siegel, who currently serves as Mayor Taylor's Chief Counsel. See link.

A story in the February 28, 2006 edition of the Tulsa World, listed Siegel's live-in partner (husband?) Daniel E. Holeman, as a $5,000 maximum contributor to Taylor's mayoral campaign. On-line records show Siegel and Holeman as both residing at 115 East 24th Street, in Tulsa.

Beside being the Mayor's chief legal advisor, Siegel, is also a committee member, along with Taylor, of a posh Philbrook Museum group that specializes in wine tastings. Other members of the group include Bob and Roxanna Lorton (World Publishing), Becky Frank (Scnake Turnbo & Frank) and both Chip McElroy and Howard Barnett, who recently were leaders of a group seeking to change the make up of Tulsa's City Council to allow for three at-large councilors.

Siegel was also recently a board member of the liberal Tulsa Interfaith Alliance.

Just a week and a half after a meeting was held to discuss the proposed Bixby Bridge project, Taylor placed two vocal advocates for defending Tulsa's position in opposition to the bridge on administrative suspension. The meeting, which included Taylor, representatives of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and former Tulsa mayor Terry Young, was reportedly held to discuss what could be done to end the stalemate that has kept the public/private partnership proposed by Infrastructure Ventures Inc. (IVI) which seeks the new bridge over the Arkansas River near 121st & Yale Ave, from going forward.

Terry Young, is a principal at Cinnabar Services, which also employs IVI CEO Bill Bacon.

Today's Tulsa World story detailing [well...uh...sketching is more like it] Taylor's stunning move of placing the top two attornies [Alan Jackere and Larry Simmons] in the city's legal department on paid suspension, is a pretty strong indication that the mayor wants to name her own City Attorney. Her Sunday afternoon summoning of Jackere and Simmons was obviously timed to deliver the suspensions when City Hall was empty of other employees.

Taylor is hoping that the City Council will support her move to revise the Civil Service process to make it easier to hire City Hall outsiders, who might be more loyal to the mayor. Originally characterized as necessary to look for a new Chief of Police to replace the retiring Dave Been, the move, if approved by the City Council, would open the door for similar hires in key positions such as the city's top attorney.

In my final year on the Council, both Jackere and Simmons (who have very different styles and legal philosophies from each other), were in agreement on two major issues that I recall; the Bixby Bridge Issue and the position that repayment of a $7.5 Million loan made by Bank of Oklahoma in the Great Plains Airlines debacle would likely result in a Qui Tam action against the Council.

Mayor Taylor, then Oklahoma's Secretary of State also served on the Board of Directors for Bank of Oklahoma.

The Tulsa World's story on the proposed changes in hiring took great care to not mention Civil Service until the fourth paragraph, because such a move against the process designed to prevent political hiring might be met with resistance from her own party's Labor wing. The World wrote:
The revisions, set for a City Council vote Thursday, were written in an
attempt to clarify a policy that a district court has ruled requires internal
hiring. The city is appealing the court's ruling.

The hiring proposals also come as Taylor prepares to begin her search
for a replacement for Police Chief Dave Been, who is retiring next year.

Last week, Taylor asked the Civil Service Commission to approve her
revisions, which she calls clarifications that reflect "long-standing policy
practices."

Taylor was unavailable for comment.

Some City Hall observers postulate that next to the Mayor, the City Attorney's position in the most powerful job in Tulsa's government.

Obviously, Taylor would like to have someone in the position that is both loyal to her and more in line with her agenda.

Despite signing a pledge during the campaign to oppose the Bixby Bridge, recently Taylor has been seen as softening her position. Many postulate that she would love to see some resolution to the stalemate that would provide her political cover in advance of a speculated challenge of Rep. John Sullivan in the 2008 elections. An opinion from the City Attorney publicly advising the Mayor and Council that Tulsa's prospects of defeating the alliance formed by the cities of Jenks and Bixby would be unlikely, might give Taylor the cover she seeks.

However, it is very unlikely that either Jackere or Simmons would ever render such an opinion. As such, they have become in my opinion, a liability to Taylor's ambitions.

Nobody ever accused Jackere and Simmons of being buddies, or even loosely aligned. Simmons was one of four Legal Department employees that applied for the City Attorney's position in 2005. At the time, then Mayor Bill LaFortune made it clear that he wanted to appoint Jackere, rather than any of the four who applied for the post via the city's civil service process. LaFortune ultimately rejected the four applicants as being unqualified for the position and appointed Jackere.

Larry Simmons had wide support among the City Council [including my endorsement] and over twenty years of service to the city. This support is probably why Taylor needed to not just eliminate Jackere from his position, but also take out Simmons, who would make a very strong internal candidate.

Here's hoping the current Council sees the truth and honors their pledges to oppose the bridge issue wherever is pops up. In this case, it is masquerading as a not-so-minor change in the City's hiring procedures.

Siegel is a 1983 graduate of the University of Tulsa College of Law. Perhaps coincidentally, contentious Water Board member Lou Reynolds is 1982 graduate of TU Law.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Getting rid of Jackere would be a blessing on this city. However, if Taylor rolls over on the bridge deal, she's going to become the most unpopular mayor yet.

The legal fights alone will far exceed her tenure.

dan said...

What happened to the bumbling funness of LaFortune? We have replaced our mayor with a shark.

And how does she figure that she will be able to challenge John Sullivan? Based on putting more cops on the street, or attacking gang violence, or effectively stopping a runaway murder rate? Bring it on.

Well, at least you can't run a red light anymore.

dan said...

P.S. Wine tastings make an excellent hobby.

Anonymous said...

anybody that looks as harsh as a mayor does with that downturned mouth, wrinkled lip lines, and sunken cheeks is probably going to be a harsh personality. you don't get that way by smiling all the time.

Anonymous said...

What dribble. You need to give it up.

Mike said...

We saw the real Kathy (Hillary) Taylor bare her fangs during the primary campaign, when she snapped at Glen McIntyre of 2 Works for Us, as he tried to ask her about the double-voting issue. I can't imagine the voters of the First District electing this grinch to Congress, but then I wouldn't have thought Baker and Hamilton would come off as Surrender Monkeys, either.