Councilor Jack Henderson promised a "battle of words" would ensue between himself and Mayor Kathy Taylor's administration if the City Council did not delay a vote on ordinances for nearly $6 million to be directed toward City Hall's relocation to the One Technology Center.
"If we bring this up, a lot of things are going to come out from conversations held behind closed doors," the councilor warned during a committee meeting last week, and that the content of those "closed-door" exchanges would be broadcast on TGOV, the cable channel that airs the live City Council meetings.
Henderson asked fellow councilors to delay for one week a vote on a series of sales tax expenditure ordinance amendments related to the moving expenses, citing a lack of cooperation from the Mayor's office in providing certain information he'd demanded about the move, presumably during those "conversations behind closed doors."
His questions regarding the use of the funds, the target date for the move, the parking lot plan for city employees and the public, build-outs associated with the floor-by-floor stacking plan, city employee groups moving to the new facilities, any third-party tenants, ADA or building codes, interior conditions, data and telecommunication infrastructure, electrical systems, security systems and relocation costs, among a few other odds and ends, have yet to be answered by the administration, he said.
"They've had two months to answer my questions, and one more week isn't going to make a difference," he said of his proposed delay.
Mike Kier and Nancy Siegel, the Mayor's finance director and general counsel, respectively, were on hand to address Henderson's concerns, but he said their answers were so vague that they provided no more information than he had before, hence his insistence that the Council withhold action on the ordinances.
But, Henderson's warning about the details of those closed-door conversations coming out only swayed his colleagues in the direction opposite from what he intended.
"That's why (Councilor Bill) Martinson and I put this forward," Councilor Cason Carter told UTW, explaining that they and other councilors were hoping either Henderson or a representative of the Mayor, or both, would share the content of those discussions with the Council and the public at last Thursday night's meeting.
"It sounds to me like there have been some closed-door meetings that all of us haven't been invited to," said Councilor Rick Westcott during last week's committee meeting.
"If you want to talk about this in open, let's do it, but we need to move forward with this," he added.
The Mayor reportedly was ill the evening of the Council meeting, and she didn't send a representative.
However, she did send a three-page letter to Henderson, copied to the rest of the Council, addressing his concerns, which her office also forwarded to UTW.
"You have inquired about a number of issues, one of which is directly relevant to the... ordinances which come before the Council this evening. Mike Kier has discussed the issue of what the funds will be used for with the Council on at least two previous occasions, however, I am happy to respond again," she wrote.
The ordinances before the Council would not actually transfer any funds, Kier later explained to UTW, but would merely establish the plan for the transfer of funds currently held for maintenance on the old buildings to an account for the One Technology Center.
When the Council eventually passes another budget ordinance to transfer the funds, it would be used to service the debt from the purchase of OTC.
As for the rest of Henderson's questions, the Mayor said her office is in the process of determining those details and others related to the move.
"We are using a typical project management process and meet every Monday at 8am," she explained.
"Much as I invited you to the North Tulsa, Economic Development meetings, I would invite you (or other Councilors) to attend these meetings weekly," Taylor added.
But, Henderson accused the Mayor of breaking promises made to the Council when she was selling the idea of moving into the One Technology Center.
"She told us there would be a stipend to help city employees pay for parking, but the response we got back did not indicate that at all," he said.
He also said her response didn't answer his questions about where the City Council offices would be located in the new building.
"I thought I knew when I voted on the purchase," he said.
"A lot of people said, 'We'll have this for you and that,' but that isn't going to happen," he added.
However, what Henderson alluded to as "promises," the Mayor called "recommendations" made by the real estate consulting firm studying the move.
"The presentation you refer to was never intended to serve as a commitment to any particular department about where and how much space would be allotted," she wrote.
Kier told UTW that he and other members of the Mayor's administration have provided answers to Henderson's questions, just not to the level of specificity preferred by the councilor.
"There's been a general outline of a plan," he said, but the specific answers demanded by Henderson simply aren't yet in place.
But Henderson said, "It's not something that's complicated. It's simple things."
The Council voted unanimously to delay action on the ordinances.
As Carter explained the rationale behind his vote, it wasn't specific questions like Henderson's about where the City Council offices will be or how parking will be arranged that motivated him, so much as questions regarding the closed-door meetings alluded to by Henderson earlier in the week.
"I still don't understand right now what issues were discussed in those meetings, but if there are questions that still need to be answered, everyone should understand what they are," he said later in an interview.
However, based on what Henderson said when UTW caught up with him later, those mysterious private meetings between Henderson and the Mayor's people never actually happened and, as he explained, he never said that they did.
"The meetings that I was referring to was the meetings being held coming up with the answers to the questions I asked--meetings the Council was in on," he said.
It was meetings in which the Mayor made her "promises" about the details of the move to which he referred, Henderson said.
Upon being told that other councilors took him to mean that private discussions had been held to which they were not invited, he said, "That's not what I meant, and they knew that."
Henderson added that Westcott, Carter and Martinson--the councilors who argued for the ordinances to be put on last week's agenda--are "playing games."
"They need to just pony up and admit that they heard promises from the Mayor that haven't come through," he said.
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