NORMAN — A Norman city councilman is claiming the mayor of Oklahoma's third-largest city violated the state's Open Meeting Act during discussions about a possible pay raise for the city manager.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal, who is up for re-election in two weeks, called the accusation “politics ... there's nothing to it.”
Councilman Tom Kovach, who represents Ward 2, told The Oklahoman that the mayor violated the law by sending a memo to council members in February, discussing pay raise options for the city manager, Steve Lewis.
Kovach said the memo sent Feb. 19 by Rosenthal to council members represented a “walking quorum.”
“It's been a practice of the mayor to, you know, send these kinds of memos and seek input outside of an open meeting,” Kovach said.
The memo, which was requested by “several council members,” was drafted with the help of City Attorney Jeff Bryant, Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal denied that the document — or how or when it was sent — is illegal.
“I send them memos about appointments, to boards and commissions,” Rosenthal said. “In fact, before we nominate people, I send a memo out telling them who I intend to nominate, and I ask for input.
“The item is then on the agenda and a public vote is taken.”
Bryant said that he doesn't believe that any Open Meeting Act violations occurred when Rosenthal sent the memo.
Bryant said his office is not releasing the memo because doing so would violate attorney-client privilege and because he views the document as belonging to the Norman City Council.
In addition to serving on the Norman City Council since 2008, Kovach has been working in recent months as a consultant for Tom Sherman, who is running against Rosenthal for mayor.
Kovach denies that relationship has anything to do with the “timing of me releasing this information.”
“Tom hired me to get him up to speed on all the city issues,” Kovach said. “I at no time discussed disclosing this memo with him or anybody on his campaign. I didn't give him any heads-up that I was going to do it.”
Kovach said he publicly expressed his concerns about the alleged Open Meeting Act violation in a relatively short time, pointing out that the memo was sent by Rosenthal less than a month ago.
“The elections started in January, as far as I'm concerned ... I didn't sit on this,” he said. “This is something we tried to resolve in the executive session after several council members raised this concern.”
Kovach, who made similar allegations against the council in 2009, said he will report open meeting violations as he sees them, not for political gain.
“Even if (it were) political, which for me it is not, it would be a violation of law no matter what,” Kovach said. “It is spin to try and divert attention from that fact to anything else. Did it happen and was it violation are the pertinent questions.”