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Expense reports raise question in Norman's mayoral race

A Norman councilman says his consulting work for a mayoral candidate is not a violation of the city's ethics ordinance.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Modified: March 26, 2013 at 9:48 pm •  Published: March 26, 2013

Councilman Tom Kovach has been paid nearly $10,000 in consulting fees for work in Tom Sherman's mayoral campaign, according to campaign expenditure reports filed with the city clerk.

Kovach said he doesn't think the work is a violation of the city's ethics ordinance, which prohibits council members from using their offices to endorse or oppose a candidate.

“At no time have I said that I, Tom Kovach, councilman for Ward 2, support Tom Sherman,” Kovach said.

Sherman and David Kempf are challenging incumbent Cindy Rosenthal for mayor.

Candidates filed campaign contribution and expenditure reports with the city clerk's office Friday. The city's election commission reviewed the reports Monday.

“It's my understanding a question was raised at the meeting about the consulting work and whether it violated the ethics ordinance,” City Attorney Jeff Bryant said.

However, Bryant said, no one asked him to look into the legality of it, nor has anyone filed a formal complaint.

The ordinance says a council member can't use his office to endorse or oppose a candidate, Bryant said, “but what is a reasonable interpretation of that? Just because you run for office doesn't mean you give up your free speech rights.”

Rosenthal said, “I think it's unprecedented. I think there's an incredible difference between somebody who might support a candidate and somebody actually taking money from a candidate.”

Kovach said he was hired by Sherman “to get him up to speed” on city issues.

“The mayor could have hired me as a consultant, but she didn't. It's not what you do in your outside life that creates a conflict of interest. It's what comes before council,” Kovach said.

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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