Editorial: Should the council approve city attorney nominees?
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 7:14 AM
Selection of the Tulsa city attorney is an executive decision. But a proposal that the City Council confirm the mayor's pick - an idea requiring a City Charter change - is worth exploring.
Two years ago a different City Council attempted to make the city attorney an elected position. There's no good reason for the position to be elective. Councilor G.T. Bynum is correct, however, that allowing mayors to hire attorneys unilaterally, as they have done since a change in city government in 1990, fails to ensure that the city attorney is impartial. Bynum plans to request a City Charter amendment giving the council authority to approve or disapprove mayors' appointees for the position.
If such a change occurred, there's always the chance that Tulsans could get another City Council, such as the previous one, that enjoyed making the city attorney a whipping post.
That said, the city attorney should represent the interests of the entire city and be someone in whom both the councilors and mayor have confidence.
Before the change to a mayor-council form of government 23 years ago, Tulsa had a city commission. Mayors appointed city attorneys who were vetted by the commission.
"Because of that, you had a city commission that felt like the city attorney worked for all of them and represented all of them" Bynum said.
It's true that Tulsa city attorneys have tended to serve as referees between the legislative and executive branches of government. That especially was true with the prior City Council that spent two years at war with Mayor Dewey Bartlett and quarreling with Bartlett's choice for (interim) city attorney.
The current system, Bynum said, is "like having a football game where one side gets to pick the referee."
Knowing that he or she serves at the pleasure of both the mayor and the council could provide for a better working relationship among the city attorney, mayor and council. At a minimum, Bynum's idea should be given a long hard look.
Original Print Headline: City attorney