Commissioner criticizes Yazel at Republican Women's Club luncheon
BY KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
8/15/12 at 9:40 AM
It was the oddest thing.
As guests at Tuesday's Republican Women's Club of Tulsa County luncheon enjoyed their lasagna and vegetables, quotes attributed to Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel flashed across a white screen - like the one Grandma used to set up to show her vacation slides - only to be replaced seconds later by another one. And then another.
"I think it's bribery of sorts and we ought to do away with the ability to give money to the DA's office," read one.
"Oh, and to comply with the state budget act. We have never done that in the nine years I have been in office. Never," read another.
More surprising than the words, perhaps, was how they ended up on a screen inside the ballroom of the Hilton Southern Hills.
County Commissioner John Smaligo put them there. And he's not sorry.
"In some ways, I actually resent the fact that I have to be here and do this," Smaligo told the packed room. "We can have disagreements and we can have separate ways of viewing things, but when it gets into name calling and the baseless accusations that you saw on the screen, ... I think that is wrong."
The quotes were gathered by Smaligo from public meetings and speeches Yazel has given over the past couple of years.
And he was glad to use them to make his points Tuesday.
Organizers of the event billed it as an opportunity to set the record straight on the county's budget process - an issue Yazel has taken aim at time and time again in his nine years in office.
And sure enough, Smaligo and Yazel talked numbers at the luncheon. But the larger issue had to do with the words - Yazel's words - and how, in Smaligo's opinion, the assessor has repeatedly used them to misrepresent how Tulsa County government operates.
For example, when Yazel was asked Tuesday whether the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office should receive funding from the county, he never mentioned the word "bribery," as he had in a Feb. 8 speech before the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club.
The implication from Yazel's earlier words, according to Smaligo, was that District Attorney Tim Harris would be beholden to county elected officials because he receives funding from the county.
Yazel said Tuesday: "I think it's wrong to jack him (Harris) around on what he gets (from us). We should evaluate why we give the money, and it shouldn't be the whims of the politicians."
Smaligo responded by saying Yazel is more polite in front of a polite audience. Then he signalled for his secretary to play an audio tape in which Yazel is heard saying it "is tantamount to bribery" to give the district attorney money.
Yazel never responded directly to the recording, nor did he back down when it came to the county's budgeting process, repeating the assertion he made before the Tulsa County Republican Men's Club in February.
"Please understand that everything that you see and read is not true, and I am not a coward," Yazel said Tuesday. "I will tell you the truth: This county has not since I have been here - and I am in my 10th budget cycle - ever completed a proper budget."
Yazel's contention is that the county does not account for cash funds or revenue carried over from the previous year. Nor does it give a complete picture of the county's finances, according to Yazel.
Smaligo said the county follows the law.
"The state Auditor's Office has weighed in as they do every single year, Democrat or Republican, and they have said very clearly that we are following the law," Smaligo said.
Nothing irked Smaligo more Tuesday than Yazel's questioning of the county's process of issuing - and refinancing - bonds.
"I would like the commissioner to tell me if he knows an LLC that gets bond fees, issuance costs," Yazel said.
Smaligo said he feels like he has been accused by Yazel of having his own limited liability company that might have profited from county bond transactions.
"I have never been associated with an LLC," Smaligo said. "And to assert that I have or that any other commissioner has is just not true, and I am tired of it. It just has to stop."
When it was all over, Yazel said he never did get a good look at the quotes scrolling across the white screen.
But, he added, "I think it's distasteful that he came here to slam me rather than talk about the budget."
Smaligo said he was simply trying to defend himself - and his colleagues - against baseless accusations.
"Mr. Yazel refused to provide proof of any of these types of accusations that I showed his quotes from," Smaligo said.
"When someone makes an outrageous claim of malfeasance, they should be forced to prove it and not do what Ken Yazel does and make the statement and then say, 'Wear yourself out proving me wrong.'"
Which, Smaligo had right, were Yazel's last words to the crowd Tuesday.
Potent quotes attributed to Ken Yazel
During Tuesday's Republican Women's Club of Tulsa County luncheon, Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo presented a slide show of quotes attributed to County Assessor Ken Yazel.
The quotes were taken from audio recordings of Yazel and emails sent by the assessor. All statements presented here reportedly were made at the Feb. 8 Tulsa County Republican Men's Club meeting.
"It's a slush fund for the commissioners any time they want it."
Referencing the resale property fund of the Treasurer's Office
"I think it's bribery of sorts and we ought to do away with the ability to give money to the DA's office."
"This year, the lying commissioner (John Smaligo) says, well I - you know it's such a good deal to have an even budget, I'm going to have a 5 percent decrease ... they are gonna take it and spend it on themselves!"
"County Clerk (Earlene Wilson), Commissioner Smaligo, Commissioner Perry and the Treasurer, Dennis Semler ought to have their butts kicked out of office. They don't respect you and they're the cause of a lot of things, including misuse of your dollars. That's a rather strong statement, but I firmly believe that."
"Oh, and to comply with the State Budget Act. We have never done that in nine years I have been there! NEVER!"
SOURCE: Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo
Original Print Headline: Commissioner and assessor trade barbs
Kevin Canfield 918-581-8313
John Smaligo: The county commissioner defends county business practices