NORMAN — Two residents have filed formal complaints against Councilman Tom Kovach, alleging he violated the city's ethics ordinance during the recent mayoral campaign.
City Attorney Jeff Bryant said he is looking into complaints filed by Mary Francis and Ben Alpers.
Francis alleges Kovach violated the ethics ordinance by accepting $3,750 in consulting fees from mayoral candidate Tom Sherman.
Alpers alleges Kovach violated the ordinance by sending a mass email to people with a link to a news story about allegations that Mayor Cindy Rosenthal had violated the Open Meeting Act.
According to Alpers' complaint, Kovach leaked information to a reporter that led to the story, then urged people to read the story without disclosing that he was a paid consultant in Sherman's campaign.
Both residents allege Kovach violated the portion of the city's ethics ordinance that prohibits council members from using their offices to endorse or oppose a candidate.
Conflict of interest?
Francis also alleges that Kovach's acceptance of consulting fees “gives the appearance of a conflict of interest,” something the ethics ordinance warns against.
Kovach says he was acting personally and not as a council member when he accepted consulting fees to aid Sherman in his mayoral campaign.
He contends the mass email was to alert residents to a possible violation of the Open Meeting Act “in the interests of transparency in government” and had nothing to do with the mayor's race.
Bryant said he hopes to have a legal opinion about the complaints ready by Monday, when the election commission meets at 2 p.m. at city hall, 201 W Gray St.
The commission is charged with looking into complaints filed against candidates, as well as examining contribution and expenditure reports filed by candidates.
Rosenthal won a third three-year term Tuesday, defeating Sherman and candidate David Kempf. She has denied violating the Open Meeting Act and said the accusation was “politics … there's nothing to it.”