Tulsa city councilor's attorney agrees: Small group meetings cannot be used to mediate disputes with mayor, all votes must be public
Some councilors believed they could meet with Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. in small groups or individually to avoid violating the Open Meeting Act.
But Durbin warned -- just as this blog had done -- that such meetings would be "not only inadvisable but would also result in a clear violation of the OMA," explaining:
In this situation, it is obvious that any plan to use smaller numbers of Councilors would inevitably result in the need for those Councilors in attendance to share information and discuss settlement proposals with those Councilors not in attendance. This activity would be a clear violation of the OMA, and thus, only an executive session including a quorum of the Councilors should be utilized if any mediation session is to be closed to the public.
The Open Meeting Act defines a meeting as “the conducting of business of a public body by a majority of its members being personally together or . . . together pursuant to a videoconference." (Okla. Stat. tit. 25, § 304(2))
As such, Durbin agreed, "Any decision by the City Council to affirm terms reached during the proposed mediation must be taken outside of the executive session."
While in my personal opinion, as well as the opinion of my client, Councilor G.T. Bynum, that the purposes of mediation will best be served if the Councilors and the Mayor have frank and open communication with as few attorneys present as possible, I recognize the fact that it may become necessary for some attorneys to attend the proposed mediation.
exercising its judgment and discretion."
However, what the Tulsa City Council may do and should do are two different things in this situation.