Saturday, July 19, 2008

Is Taylor's Jet a Sub-Sonic Ethical Question?

Some time last week, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor [as I expected she would] blocked the ability of the public to track her private jet, "Mayor Force One," on the Internet. Apparently, she has become concerned about the increased interest that I and other constituents have been showing in how she uses this rare asset to affect public policy.

I first had my interest piqued when I heard several councilors refer to trips they had taken with BOk President Stan Lybarger and others to visit ballparks in Memphis, Toledo and Indianapolis. They did this during the July 1o, 2008 City Council meeting during discussion regarding the proposed Business Improvement District [BID] for a new Tulsa Drillers baseball stadium. That measure passed the Council that night by a 6 to 3 vote.

I heard rumors last week that Kathy Taylor had used "her jet" to fly to Colorado to fetch her most loyal councilor, District 3's David Patrick. Seems, I was told, she thought she might need his vote to rush the BID resolution through to passage before opposition to the BID could mount. During my show on Friday, July 18, while talking about how Mayor Taylor had blocked the tracking of her plane, I purposely slipped in as one of the reasons she might have done so, her potential desire to send a plane up to Colorado to pick up David Patrick. [Hear the relevant audio here]. I like to do such things to see if it shakes anything up.

Lo and behold, the very next morning, the Tulsa World miraculously has a story on the occurrence of just such an event!

The story goes to great pains [not to be confused with Great Plains] to explain that the trip had been vetted for any legal and ethical questions that might have arisen. The more cynical among us could almost assume that the Tulsa World reported the story as part of Kathy Taylor's special "spin included" clause that comes with her premium subscription to her friends', the Lorton's, family newspaper.

But questions are still beginning to bubble to the surface. First, who owns the Lear Jet that fetched Patrick? The newspaper refers to it as Taylor's "private jet," which explains more who uses it than who owns it. If a reader somehow becomes confused by the reference so as to believe that Taylor is the sole, private owner, that can't be the World's fault.

The actual owner of the jet is 1132 Investment Co. As the graphic below shows, this is apparently not an Oklahoma corporation, but rather one from Nevada.

It remains to be seen if this is significant. I did some checking on the Oklahoma Secretary of State's website to see if 1132 Investment had any apparent registration with the State of Oklahoma. I could not find any. This isn't conclusive in itself, since the website, ultimately controlled by Mayor Taylor's good friend, former Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage, isn't exactly user friendly.

But let's assume that 1132 Investment isn't domesticated in Oklahoma, but is fully a Nevada corporation. Let us further assume that, as the name implies, the company is a for-profit venture. What then makes the use of this jet to fetch loyal councilors any different than if American Airlines had sent a jet up to get Patrick? In both instances, you would have a jet owned and operated by a out-of-state corporation, flying across state lines for the express purpose of bringing a vacationing elected official back home for a key vote.

I'm wondering if the State ethics experts were told about some of these wrinkles when they were asked their opinion. Or were they simply told that it was Kathy Taylor's "private jet?"

I further wonder if there are any federal ethical questions involved in this?

When I was a city councilor, we were not allowed to accept gifts in excess, if memory serves me right, of $50. By her own admission, Taylor gave Patrick something [a quick and timely trip home] that was far in excess of $50, unless you don't think $4,500 in jet fuel and hours on the road don't rate.

If 1132 Investment Co. is a for-profit corporation, can we assume that the corporate accountant will depreciate the Lear Jet 31a as a result of the trip? Doesn't that take tax payer dollars from the company's tax bill?

Patrick was not in Colorado on official business. He was there on a semi-vacation tending to private property he owns there. It cost him his own money to get to Colorado, so any expense saved in getting back from private activities is a net benefit to his personal wealth, hence a gift! Or are they telling us that Taylor then spent an additional $4,500 to fly him BACK to Colorado after the meeting?

I wonder if the IRS will have some interest in this matter?

One more thing troubles me about the Tulsa World's account of what happened. The paper writes:
Patrick said he and his grandson, who has never flown, traveled back in the jet with the pilot and Stacy Kymes.

Kymes, director of capital markets and mergers and acquisitions for the Bank of Oklahoma, is one of several people who has worked behind the scenes on a proposed downtown baseball stadium for the Tulsa Drillers, the city's Double A baseball team.

Why is a mergers and acquisitions specialist for Bank of Oklahoma made available for several hours to lobby a city councilor? Why is such a specialist working on a ballpark issue for the city and the Mayor, during the same period of time that the Mayor and Bank of Oklahoma were hammering out a $7.1 million settlement in the Great Plains Airlines debacle? Just two weeks prior to the ballpark vote, the Tulsa City Council had voted 5 to 2 to certify that money existed in the city's Sinking Fund, sufficient to pay the $7.1 million to none other than Bank of Oklahoma!

Oh yeah...before announcing her run for the position of Mayor of Tulsa, Kathy Taylor had been a member of the Board of Directors of Bank of Oklahoma!

George Kaiser, the principal shareholder of Bank of Oklahoma has been throwing a lot of money and weight behind much of what the Mayor has been involved in of late. If downtown property owners will benefit from the building of an new downtown ballpark, and if George Kaiser is the owner of downtown property [which he is] then can't we assume that Stacy Kymes, Mr. Kaiser's employee, will be advising Patrick more toward what is in BOk's best interest, rather than the City's? Or are you so naive as to delude yourself that what is good for BOk is also good for Tulsa?

I'm not sure what we can do with this, other than to begin to pressure a city council made up of city councilors who have been enjoying high roller treatment through the generosity of 1132 Investment Co, to change the Council's Ethics Ordinance to stop future activity of this nature. Not likely.

Maybe it's time to put together a petition to publicly censure the Mayor and her jet setting City Council?


Anonymous said...

Mr. Medlock,

I'm new to Oklahoma, and really don't have a dog in this fight, but I've always thought it very important to shine the light of public access on the politics which affects them.

You seem to be doing an excellent job of keeping the players in the Tulsa political arena in the public eye. Weighing the opposing positions on the issues seems to yield a huge advantage to your side. I'd be interested in reading any blogs which are supportive of the mayor and some of the city counselors, but haven't seen much in that regard.

Again, thanks for giving us food for thought.

Anonymous said...

If you look up an article from the World dated 1-7-2007 you'll read them say it's Lobecks company:
""Fifteen of the executive suite contracts have been fully executed and are filed in the City Clerk's Office. They include:

--Case & Associates Properties has leased a $40,000-level suite for five years, totaling $209,859.

--Arvest Bank has leased a $50,000-level suite for seven years, totaling $365,456.

--Bill Lobeck, the mayor's husband, through his 1132 Investment Co. has leased a $50,000-level suite for seven years, totaling $365,456.

--Ackerman McQueen and The Nordam Group together have leased a $50,000-level suite for five years, totaling $262,323.

--Arrow Trucking has leased a $50,000-level suite for 10 years, totaling $523,420.

--Manhattan Construction Co. and Rooney Holdings together have leased a $40,000-level suite for five years, totaling $209,859.

Then again it was hers when she ran for Mayor....

Randy Harris said...

Way to go Chris! Keep cracking the WHIP!

Pamela said...

Sounds like the news will be getting more interesting in the days to come.

Amazing. The sad thing is that this could be just a drop in the bucket.