TULSA - In an announcement he admits he timed to influence the Tulsa mayoral race, Tulsa County Democratic Party Chairman Michael Whelan Thursday took Mayor Dewey Bartlett to task for failing to reveal to voters he owns land which could potentially become more valuable if a highway expansion he's lobbied for goes through.
Whelan tells KRMG Bartlett's done nothing illegal, but should have disclosed to the public that he owns land in the Gilcrease Hills that could become much more valuable if a proposed expansion of the Gilcrease Hills Expressway happens.
Bartlett lobbied for $10 million in public funding to support that highway project when he pushed for the Vision2 package, which voters defeated last year.
In his email, Whalen told KRMG "Dewey Bartlett owes Tulsans an explanation of what he stands to gain if the proposed Gilcrease Expressway is built where it is planned to be constructed.”
In a follow-up phone call, he told KRMG "that's the type of fact that you would disclose if you're the sitting mayor proposing a policy that could potentially bring a windfall to yourself and your family."
Asked directly about the timing of his announcement, Whalen admitted "it is what it is."
"You know, it's something that I've been concerned about for a while, but I wanted to make sure that I checked my facts first. Let's face it, I'm Chairman of the Tulsa Democratic Party, that is not my full-time job, so obviously I spend more time on politics leading up to elections."
He added, "with Bill Christiansen endorsing Kathy (Taylor) yesterday, and a bunch of other things sort of gobbling up a lot of the headlines, I wanted to make sure that when it came out it wasn't just white noise."
KRMG contacted Bartlett Campaign Manager Dan Patten for a response, he said they hadn't seen Whalen's statement, and asked KRMG to email to him.
Mayor Bartlett called and said Whalen's claims are untrue -- he's disclosed his ownership of that land to the Ethics Commission and done everything he was supposed to do.
KRMG will follow up with the Mayor on Friday to fully air his perspective on the story.