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Conflict Of Interest Or Nepotism -- Or Both?

Tuesday, Apr. 3, 2012

The ambulance business is big business, and local government agencies are charged with securing contracts for such service. Because the stakes are so high, there is a need for absolute transparency in the awarding of these lucrative contracts, and any other contracts related to the providers.

But full disclosure was not the way the Tulsa and Oklahoma City agency, known as EMSA, handled business. A story in the Tulsa World reports that for more than 20 years a law firm had a no-bid contract to provide legal and collections service. To make matters worse, the daughter of EMSA chief executive officer worked for that law firm. Steve Williamson, CEO, says he doesn’t believe it is a conflict of interest, to “negotiate and sign government contracts with his daughter’s employer.”

The paper quotes him as saying it might look like a conflict, “when you put it like that.” His daughter is a payroll clerk, a job Williamson said he didn’t believe would apply to the city’s ethics policy.

Michael Slankard, who is with the city’s ethics commission said that although the policy is written for board members, it was intended to cover the CEO. “If the citizens of Tulsa reasonably expect that there’s a conflict, well that’s enough. It doesn’t have to be a conflict, just the appearance of one.”

Tags: conflicts of interests, nepotism, Tulsa

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