Tulsans will decide whether City Council approval should be required before the mayor can hire a city attorney.
Councilors voted Wednesday to put the proposed amendment to the City Charter on the Aug. 25 municipal election ballot.
The proposal calls for the mayor’s appointee to be subject to confirmation by “a majority of the entire membership of the Council.”
It differs slightly from one offered by then-Councilor G.T. Bynum in 2013. Then-Mayor Dewey Bartlett vetoed the proposed charter change, saying it was an attempt to limit the mayor’s powers.
That proposal would have given the City Council the authority to approve a mayor’s appointee based on qualifications and merit. If councilors voted against the appointment, they would have been required to explain their reasons in writing to the city personnel director, who would have the final say on whether the mayor’s appointee was qualified.
City Councilor Ben Kimbro initiated the charter change proposal this time around after discussing it with Mayor Bynum.
“I think effectively it achieves the same thing” as the 2013 proposal, Bynum said Wednesday.
Bynum said recently that the intent of the proposed charter change then and now is to force the mayor and City Council to work together in hiring a city attorney.
“I think I said that when I proposed it seven years ago,” Bynum said. “The mayor, in hiring legal counsel for the City Council, should have enough regard for their colleagues on the council to involve them in the hiring process.”
“And I can’t think of other situations where someone with the kind of responsibility over such a large organization that the City Council has that is forced into utilizing legal counsel that they did not have a role in hiring.”
Bynum said the existing system puts the city attorney in a difficult position when councilors and the mayor don’t get along, as has happened in the past.
“It puts him in an automatic position of distrust if the council had no role in selecting the attorney who gives them legal advice,” he said. “For any of us in our personal lives or business you would never want just an attorney forced upon you when you have to follow their advice, and yet that was the position we were put in as councilors.”
The proposed charter amendment would not affect current City Attorney David O’Meilia.
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