Tulsa’s City Council Rules and Order of Business state in part that councilors “pledge to be reasonable, responsible, positive, receptive and courteous in all their dealings, to devote their time, skills and energies to their elected office, and abide by all reasonable standards regarding conflict of interest and ethics …”
For the most part, they do. But after a recent hullabaloo over alleged violations of the Oklahoma Open Meeting Act, councilors voted on Wednesday to amend their rules to include a process by which disputes should be mediated.
Under the new language, when a dispute arises among councilors regarding the application of rules regulating their conduct, the councilor or councilors asserting the dispute will notify the City Council chairperson or vice chairperson.
“… Who should make a good faith effort to mediate the dispute prior to the filing of any official request, demand, claim, or action, unless the time for filing such request, demand, claim, or action would lapse or be waived by such notice and mediation,” the amendment states.
If the chairperson or vice chairperson are subjects of the dispute, the person alleging the dispute will notify one or two of the next most senior councilors — other than the chairperson or vice chairperson — of the disagreement.
Council Chairwoman Crista Patrick, who was not available for comment Friday, proposed the mediation process at an April 19 committee meeting. Given that the City Council does not have a human resources department, she told her colleagues, she thought it was prudent to establish a process to resolve conflicts “so that we don’t get into a public situation.”
“If the chair and the vice chair are notified immediately, they have the right to call a meeting, have everyone sit down in a room together and talk it out so that there isn’t a lot of hurt feelings or — not to mitigate, or not to cancel out any legal requests, that is not the point — but just so that we have an open dialogue about where everybody is at initially, before it kind of gets out of hand,” Patrick said.
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