Local & Regional
3:37 pm
Tue March 23, 2010

Council Investigation

Tulsa, OK – The Tulsa City Council will go behind closed doors Thursday afternoon. Council Chair Rick Westcott says they want to discuss the best way to move forward in a review of comments made by Mayor's Chief of Staff Terry Simonson.

At issue, is whether Simonson mislead the council and/or the federal government regarding using a grant to rehire laid-off police officers.

The meeting will begin at 5PM, just ahead of the regular 6PM council meeting

Read the memo chief deputies sent to the police chief:

TO: Interim Chief Chuck Jordan

FROM: DC Daryl Webster, Admin. Bureau DC

Dennis Larsen, Ops Bureau DC

Mark McCrory, Investigative Bureau

DATE: March 15, 2010

SUBJECT: Concerns Re Grant Comments

We must express our deep concern about the manner in which the City of Tulsa is responding to inquiries about the reallocation of grant money to rehire laid-off officers. Certain City officials have made assertions to the City Council, the public, and now the Department of Justice that are not true. After reading in the local news of the e-mail exchange between Terry Simonson and DOJ official Carol Poole, we cannot in good conscience remain silent without becoming party to these untruths. In Mr. Simonson's March 5 e-mail to Ms. Poole, three demonstrably false statements were made: 1) "The idea of repurposing the JAG funds to rehire officers first came to Mayor Bartlett's attention in January " (Quoting Mr. Simonson's e-mail) This is not true. The following chronology demonstrates that the Mayor's office was made aware of the JAG grant option in early December. Deputy Chiefs Webster and McCrory met with the Mayor and Mr. Simonson on December 8 and expressly asked that they consider the use of grant funds to prevent officer layoffs. On the same day, a copy of federal supplanting guidelines was e-mailed to Stuart McCalman, of the Mayor's office. These guidelines included a specific scenario that clearly demonstrated that grant funds could be reallocated to prevent layoffs from occurring. On December 18, a report was submitted to Mr. Simonson that described several options to retain personnel. The report expressed optimism that if application were made to the federal grantor, funds could be reallocated to either retain personnel or rehire them in the event they were laid off. This report was hand delivered to Mr. Simonson by DC McCrory, DC Larsen, and Captain Jon Brooks. DC McCrory and DC Larsen discussed with Mr. Simonson alternative funding sources to avoid layoffs, including the use of grant funds and the requirements for requesting reallocation of grant funds. On December 29, Mayor Bartlett communicated in writing to FOP President Phil Evans that he had been told there were "JAG funds available that could be used to save some, not all, of the projected jobs (sic) losses." 2) " The Mayor was told in January by members of the Tulsa Police Department management that before the money could be used or before the request for repurpose of the JAG funds could be submitted to and granted by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, that the layoff of the officers had to have actually occurred and not just might occur at some point in the future." (Quoting Simonson email) The "management" personnel who allegedly told the Mayor this incorrect information are not named. However, neither Chief Palmer nor any TPD Deputy Chief conveyed such information. Quite the opposite. As noted above, TPD Management repeatedly urged that grant funds be used to prevent layoffs: On January 10, Chief Palmer submitted a proposal to the Mayor and Staff that included a recommendation to use grant funds to eliminate or reduce the need for layoffs. On January 12, Chief Palmer and DC Webster appeared before the City Council and explained the grant application process. DC Webster explained to Council that as soon as the Police Department was provided with a number of officers to subsidize and a prospective date to begin the subsidy, the grant reallocation request would be submitted the same day with the expectation of a quick turn-around. Mr. Simonson was present during this discussion. 3) "The layoffs actually occurred the last week of January when the Fraternal Order of Police union voted down the Mayor's proposal for compensation reduction .This request, as you know, was then made the following week." (Quoting Simonson e-mail). This also is not entirely true. While the exact date of application may seem inconsequential, the omission of other facts is not. The omitted facts convey an awareness that it was not necessary for layoffs to occur before asking the grantor to reallocate the grant. Further, no effort was made to adjust the layoff date to give the DOJ time to respond to the reallocation request before laying off personnel. Note the following time-line: Layoff notices were given to officers on January 22. On January 27, DC Webster was directed to submit an application for reallocation to the DOJ. This submission requested funding for 58 officers for a period of 9 months. On January 29 or 30, DC Webster was directed to contact DOJ and cancel the request for reallocation until further notice. Officers were laid-off on January 31. On February 8, DC Webster was directed to submit a new request for reallocation, requesting funding for 35 officers for 17 months. Our concerns about the above-mentioned misrepresentations are sufficient that we are required, both legally and ethically, to report them. Our reasons follow: 1) It is unethical for a city official to communicate to DOJ or to any other authority untruths about city employees. For several weeks, TPD Management clearly and repeatedly asked that grant funds be used to avoid layoffs. That recommendation was not followed. Failure to obtain reallocation funding prior to layoffs caused the avoidable expenditure of taxpayer funds through severance and accrued leave payout. An effort is now made to shift responsibility for that costly outcome from the person(s) who made the decision to the very people who proposed an alternative that might have avoided it. No city policy or standard of conduct requires us to be silent while we are blamed for the consequences of others' decisions that were made in spite of our arguments to the contrary. 2) Making false statements to the federal grantor may violate grant rules and federal law. DOJ-FJA guidelines require both truthfulness in communication and a requirement that potential misconduct be reported to the Office of the Inspector General. The obligation of reporting misconduct or misrepresentation falls on us, just as the obligation of truthfulness falls on others. 3) We are placed in potential legal or administrative jeopardy and our professional reputations are called into question by false statements that TPD Management told the Mayor that layoffs must precede application for or use of grant funds. Again, there is no policy or standard of conduct that requires us to be silent while our reputations are harmed for allegedly providing incorrect information when in fact we provided different and correct information. 4) City of Tulsa Personnel Policies and Procedures, Section 411.3, Rule 16 requires us to report misconduct, forbidding "Concealment of or failure to report a significant error, mistake, unsafe working condition or injury." The following Work Rules are implicated by the misconduct that has occurred: Rule 6 forbids "Commitment of acts, on or off the job, which would bring embarrassment, distrust, or discredit to the City of Tulsa." Rule 9 forbids "Falsification of any record, report (written or oral) or document arising from employment or work with the City." Rule 42 forbids "Negligence, inefficiency or incompetence in the performance of duties." We ask that these matters of legal and public interest be fully addressed. The citizens of Tulsa and the Department of Justice should be made aware of the falsehoods propagated by City officials, including Mr. Simonson. All false statements should be publicly repudiated and the Inspector General should be made aware of this situation so that he can determine whether further investigation is warranted