Recent statements by a member of the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission, that he believes there is an appearance that planning commissioners and members of the City Council are working privately to orchestrate the outcome of some issues, have been met with stern rebuttals by members of those two entities.
Planning Commission Chairman Bill Leighty and District 9 City Councilor G.T. Bynum expressed dismay last week after Planning Commission member John Dix told his fellow commissioners at a May 18 work/training session that he suspected something improper had occurred during the PLANiTULSA hearings before the TMAPC in 2010, something he has since become convinced of.
Dix -- who did not respond to a message left on his home phone from Urban Tulsa Weekly -- acknowledged during the meeting he did not have any evidence of improprieties, but added, "when I smell a skunk, I start looking downwind to see if anything is going on."
Those statements drew the ire of Leighty and Bynum.
"I was absolutely stunned by not only the substance of Mr. Dix's allegations but the choice words he used to describe them," Leighty told UTW, adding that Dix's insinuations that planning commissioners and city councilors are working together to predetermine the outcome of some issues is "preposterous."
Leighty said it was unfair and professionally irresponsible for Dix to make such charges without providing evidence.
"His statements suggest wrongdoing by unnamed planning commissioners and city councilors, thereby calling into question the ethics and integrity of the members of both organizations and sowing the seeds of doubt and suspicion among our citizens.
"If there is an appearance that planning commissioners and city councilors are working in a sinister way behind the scenes, the only person I have heard express such concerns is John Dix," Leighty said.
Bynum also was perplexed by Dix's statements.
"It just goes to show you the City Council doesn't have the market cornered on shoot-from-the-hip comments," he said. "It seems like he has a fundamental misunderstanding about the role of the Planning Commission. It's a recommending body and does not have the final say."
Dix also had expressed concerns about a recent City Council vote to temporarily ban the use of planned unit developments in historic preservation districts that differed from a TMAPC decision last year. Bynum was instrumental in drafting that temporary ban as a compromise between competing interests in that issue.
Bynum said he had no idea what Dix was talking about.
"The shame in all this is, one guy is making these comments, and now it's being portrayed by some as the Planning Commission is having these concerns," he said. "One person shoots their mouth off, and suddenly it's attributed to everyone on that body. That's unfair, and I don't think it expresses the sentiments of the commission. From what I've heard, it does not."
As of late last week, Dix had not pursued a formal investigation into the matter. Assistant City Attorney Pat Boulden said he had not heard from Dix on the matter.
Any alleged violation of the TMAPC's code of ethics would be referred to the governing body responsible for the appointee in question, Boulden said, either the City Council or the County Commission, depending on whether the commission member was a city or county appointee.
Leighty said Wayne Alberty, manager of land development services for the Indian Nations Council of Governments, which provides the TMAPC staff, insinuated to him he had heard rumors of improper activity but knew no specifics about Dix's concerns.
The TMAPC will consider changes to its ethics policy proposed by Dix at a June meeting, Leighty said.
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