Recusals might be issue in City Council race
By BRIAN BARBER
Tulsa World Staff Writer
City Council candidate Phil Lakin's job as head of the Tulsa Community Foundation
could force him to recuse himself from a lot of votes if he is elected to the District 8
post, some say.
The philanthropic foundation - valued at $4 billion and the largest of its kind in the
nation - has been a frequent benefactor to the city, providing funding for scores of
projects, including the KPMG efficiency review, PlaniTulsa, the parks master plan and
Oklahoma State University Medical Center, among many others.
It also has given money to help pay for Mayor's Office employees and travel and
bought a $25 million revenue bond needed to front the cost of ONEOK Field, which is
being repaid over 30 years by downtown assessments...
"It hasn't been us going in and saying, 'We'd like you to do the KPMG study or
PlaniTulsa, and we'll pay for it.' It's been the city coming and saying 'We'd like to do
this, can you help?' "
The money comes from individuals, other foundations and corporations and is
funneled through the Tulsa Community Foundation, which oversees roughly 700
donor-advised funds, the largest of which is the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
"We are incorporated specifically to benefit Tulsa and northeastern Oklahoma," he
said. "There are no members, there is no profit-sharing, there's no financial return on
investment. What we give are gifts, without strings."
The foundation has given more than $580 million to Tulsa-area charities
since it was created in 1998, and 3 percent of that has gone to government
and civic enhancements in and around the city, reports show.
"It's very small in the grand scheme of things," Lakin said, noting that what the
foundation has contributed is only a sliver of all that the city government does...
Of the dozens who have served as councilors since this form of government went into
effect in 1990, fewer than half have had instances where they recused themselves,
"Mr. Lakin has many bosses within the community foundation and the Kaiser
foundation, and he's putting himself in an awkward position," Christiansen
"With all the tentacles the foundation has in the community, he will have
tremendous conflicts. I could envision him having to recuse himself once a
week, and that wouldn't be fair to the residents of District 8."...
No what-ifs: Lakin wouldn't speculate on what issues he might have to recuse himself
But using as an example the KPMG study, which has provided 1,100
recommendations to make Tulsa's government more efficient and is now being vetted
and implemented by the mayor's administration, Lakin said, "I don't have a stake in
"I don't get paid more or less whether or not anything with KPMG is done. I don't sit
on a committee overseeing it or anything."...
"I can't guarantee a dollar will come, but if we can make investments because of the
knowledge I receive, then I think that's a benefit."
Most board members of universities and colleges are also donors handling public
and private funds, Lakin pointed out, adding that most nonprofit boards are made up
Current service: Lakin is a mayoral appointee to the Metropolitan Tulsa Transit
Authority, a post he expects to give up, if elected...
Tinney noted Lakin's involvement with the George Kaiser Family Foundation
and as a member of the Educare board of directors.
Lakin told the Tulsa World he had resigned from the Educare board before becoming
involved with the state education board to avoid any appearance of a conflict...
If Lakin were elected, and the foundation were to give the city money to do a certain
project, Slankard said, "I would think at that point, he should recuse himself, not just
from the donation vote, but from all discussions."...
Lakin, a Republican, will face attorney George Gibbs in the Sept. 13 GOP primary.
The winner will advance to the Nov. 8 general election to compete against Democrat
and retired banker William Suliburk.
Kaiser conflicts of interest