City Councilor G.T. Bynum, and Mayor Dewey Bartlett face off during a recent political forum. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

Mayor-Elect G.T. Bynum, left, and outgoing Mayor Dewey Bartlett differ over whether Bartlett should be allowed to make appointments to authorities, boards and commissions during the rest of his term. KEVIN CANFIELD/The Frontier

The Tulsa City Council has stopped considering outgoing Mayor Dewey Bartlett’s appointments and reappointments to authorities, boards and commissions as part of an overall review of the appointment process, city officials confirmed Monday.

Councilors are expected to look at possible board consolidations as well as the diversity in membership of the city’s 42 authorities, boards and commissions. Another major impetus for the move is councilors’ concern that incoming mayor G.T. Bynum  or any mayor entering office under similar circumstances  would have no say over appointments that could have a major impact on his administration.

Several councilors said Monday that they favor putting Bartlett’’s appointments or reappointments on hold until he leaves office Dec. 5. Thirteen appointments are on hold and the mayor is scheduled to make at least 14 more before he leaves office.

“I think there are some people, including me, who have a difficult time making long-term appointments to authorities, which are are well outside of the purview of the power of the council and our oversight as elected representatives, by a mayor who is leaving office,” said Councilor Phil Lakin said.

The council’s decision has nothing to do with any particular appointee submitted by the mayor, Lakin said.

“It has everything to do with whether or not it is right for an exiting mayor to be making very powerful appointments to very powerful authorities,” Lakin said.

The council’s move will not leave authorities, boards and commissions short of members because current members will remain serving until the confirmation process begins again.

Bartlett was defeated in his bid for re-election June 28, leaving the city in the unprecedented position of having a lame duck mayor for more than five months.

The long period of transition is what councilors are grappling with when it comes to mayoral appointments. Until the election schedule can be changed to shorten the time between the election and the inauguration, the best way for the council to handle appointments made by outgoing mayors is to put them on hold, Lakin said.

That action should occur “whether it is an authority, board or commission, because we don’t want any individual to be singled out,” he said.

Tulsa’s mayor appoints a total of 303 members to the city’s boards, commissions and authorites by virtue of his appointing power, according to figures provided by the Mayor’s Office.

Since losing his re-election bid, Bartlett has made dozens of appointments and reappointments. He was not available for comment Monday, but he told The Frontier last week that he plans to continue doing so until he leaves office.

“I have had a few people say, ‘Well, why do you still make appointments? And let G.T.’” Bartlett said. “No, my job is to be mayor until Dec. 5, and that includes the appointments.”

Bartlett said his intent in doing so is not to stack the deck against Bynum.

“I am not going to put people in there just to have them in opposition to G.T.,” Bartlett said. “I put people in, like I always have, because they are good representatives of the community (and) they provide good leadership.”

Lakin said city councilors also have responsibilities and obligations to their constituents.

“The council has an equally important job. That is why there is a check-and-balance of the mayor appointing and the council confirming,” he said. “These jobs are way too important not to have the involvement of the next administration.”

Bynum said he’s heard from fellow councilors for years about the need to examine whether the city’s boards, authorities and commissions reflect the city as a whole when it comes to gender, race, profession and geography. Councilors have expressed similar concerns about the lack of accountability inherent in allowing outgoing mayors to make appointments that can affect the city long after they are out of office, Bynum said.

“I can see, I think, valid arguments with both concerns from the diversity standpoint and just the accountability standpoint,” Bynum said. “So I support the pause (in confirming appointments) for both reasons.”

Bynum noted that organizations like the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy, commonly known as the trash board, control huge budgets and help set policies that affect all Tulsans.

“When you look at the overall budgets of the authorities, boards and commissions we’re talking about, their combined annual budgets are right on par with the city government itself,” Bynum said. “This is a tremendous amount of responsibility delegated by whoever is in the Mayor’s Office.”

The only way to ensure that those appointees are accountable to the public is to ensure that the mayor who appoints them and the City Council that confirms them are accountable to the people, Bynum said.

“The people ought to have a right to hold that person accountable for the people they appoint,” Bynum said, adding: “That’s hard to do when the mayor is walking out the door as they are making the appointments.”

Bynum said pledged to work with his successor to ensure that his appointments are honored.

City Councilor Anna America said she does not believe in blocking the mayor from making his appointments, even with five months between the June 28 election and inauguration day.

“I don’t think it is reasonable to not expect Mayor Bartlett to do his charter-mandated job for that long a period of a time,” America said.

At the same time, America said, the council has a charter-mandated responsibility of its own: thoroughly evaluate appointees and not simply serve as a rubber stamp for the mayor.

America’s own review of appointments, done several years ago, found that several council districts each had about 10 people total on city boards, authorities and commissions while District 9 in midtown had 10 times more, or about 30 percent of all appointments.

“It is important to have people from all parts of the city and all backgrounds helping make those decisions, so that we know east and west and north and south Tulsa are represented as well as midtown, that working class and middle-class families, young professionals and retirees on fixed income all have a say in how our city is run,” America said.

Council Chairwoman Jeannie Cue said she wants the appointment process put on hold until it can be modified to ensure that Tulsans from all parts of the city are represented on boards, commissions and authorities.

“We have great people in Tulsa and we want people to know people from all over the city are represented on these boards,” she said. “And as councilors we need to learn more about this commissions.”

Councilor Connie Dodson said the City Council began looking at city commissions well before the June 28 mayor’s race to see whether some of them could be consolidated. That review process has now been expanded, for a variety of reasons, to include boards and authorities, Dodson said.

Dodson, like Lakin, would not be surprised if the council did not act on many of the mayor’s appointments before he leaves office.

“Simply because we don’t want a bunch of appointments made before G.T. has an opportunity to weigh in, because they (the appointments) are going to fulfill most of his first term,” she said.

Councilor David Patrick said he can see the merits of the concerns raised by his fellow councilors, including those who believe the incoming mayor should have a say on appointments.

“Mayoral appointments are an extension of the mayor’s administration,” Patrick said.

Given that, it does not seem fair to have the outgoing mayor appoint people who could end up serving the majority of the new mayor’s term, Patrick said

“In that case, you (the incoming mayor) ought to have a little input,” Patrick said.

Councilor Karen Gilbert, who supported Bynum during the mayoral election, said she supports getting better geographical representation on the city’s boards, commissions and authorities.

“I think I have maybe two or three from my district, and it seems like for the last several months the ones that have been coming to us are usually from Districts 4 and 8,” she said. “So, nothing against 4 or 8, but come on. There are seven other districts.”

She is also in favor of putting the mayor’s appointments on hold until Bynum is sworn in.

“I think rather than a mayor that is going out of office stocking those positions, it’s just wise to hold off on everything until the new mayor-elect gets in there,” Gilbert said.

Councilor Blake Ewing, who also supported Bynun in his bid to become mayor, accused the mayor of filling appointments with friends but declined to name names.

“I believe the appointments should be made, not to do favors for your friends on the way out the door, but with the long-term good of the community in mind,” Ewing said. “That said, I prefer to hold off until the new mayor is in place.”

Appointments in limbo

The following appointments or reappointments are in limbo as the City Council reviews the city’s process for appointments to city boards, commissions and authorities:

  • Dr. Nadia Janjua: Appointment to the Mayor’s Commission on the Status of Women. Mayor’s office sent her to Council on 6/27/2016.
  • Leanne Helmerich: Reappointment to the Tulsa City/County Library Commission. Mayor’s office sent her to Council on 7/22/2016.
  • Nancy Roberts: Reappointment to the Tulsa Development Authority. Mayor’s office sent her to Council on 7/26/2016.
  • John Snyder: Appointment to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 7/26/2016.
  • Robert Jack: Appointment to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 7/28/2016.
  • John Pilkington: Reappointment to the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/4/2016.
  • Toby Jenkins: Reappointment to the Human Rights Commission. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/9/2016.
  • John Thisler: Appointment to the Infrastructure Development Advisory Board as the Consulting Engineer #3. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/12/2016.
  • Michael Oonk: Appointment to the Park and Recreation Board. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/12/2016.
  • Billie Barnett: Reappointment to the Tulsa Performing Arts Center Trust. Mayor’s office sent her to Council on 8/16/2016.
  • Steve Mitchell: Reappointment to the Tulsa Development Authority. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/17/2016.
  • Jerry Dillon: Reappointment to the Human Rights Commission. Mayor’s office sent him to Council on 8/18/2016.
  • Cheryl Cohenour: Appointment to the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission. Mayor’s office sent her to Council on 8/24/2016.