Mount defends ‘abusive’ letters, requests
By Traci Chapman
Ward 6 Councilman Don Mount has submitted more than 71 letters and open records requests to Mustang city managers in the last 18 months.
Mount says he has sent the correspondence and requests in the process of being a conscientious councilman; some of his fellow council members and city staff say it has been a campaign of abuse and intimidation.
“Your continuing insinuations, allegations and charges of intentional misdoings on behalf of Ms. Watts (finance director Janet Watts), the previous leadership and the city of Mustang as a whole are tantamount to bullying and will not be tolerated by this office or any other office of the city of Mustang,” City Manager Tim Rooney wrote in a Sept. 20, 2013 email to Mount. “If you feel strongly, individually, that you have information and documentation that indicates malfeasance on behalf of anyone in this organization, I encourage and welcome you to take necessary legal action to pursue justice.”
“I am disturbed about your so-called ‘findings of many allegations of wrongdoing’ in my letters, however I am also pleased to know that you have the qualifications to ‘render these kinds of judgments,’” Mount said in a Jan. 28 email responding to questions about his interactions with fellow council members and city staff. “I shall continue to exercise my rights as to free speech and if any public officials makes a statement or publishes a statement that I choose to question, I shall do so.”
Mount was elected to the Ward 6 seat in 2011, after he defeated incumbent Katherine Callahan in a runoff election marked by what officials called “low turnout.” A February primary that year only drew a total of 85 voters; Mount collected 108 ballots, compared with 72 cast for Callahan in the runoff.
City officials said issues began to crop up soon after his election, but they spiked after City Manager Mike Rutledge resigned in February 2013. Upon taking the position of interim city manager, Justin Battles was “deluged” with information requests, certified letters and emails about city practices, his performance and a variety of other problems, Rooney said.
“When a person holds himself out, in a public meeting, to be an authority, expert or makes a bold statement about something that he knows nothing about, I will ask him for proof or supporting evidence of his statement,” Mount said in a July 26 letter to Battles. “‘Just like you did about construction estimates not being furnished because, THE BOND CONTROLS THAT.’
“When you said that, in open meeting, I then will question it,” the councilman continued. “I do not know why you provided the entire ‘transcript’ and I doubt that you just recently made a copy of the materials, but to answer my own question, the reason you provided it all was probably because you did not know what it was.”
Issues continued when Rooney took the helm as city manager in August. Rooney and council members said Mount did not take part in the hiring process, something Mount disputed, in part.
“In your vast accumulation of “my letter” you should find one dated April 30, 2013 to Mr. Battles wherein I told him I could not be available,” Mount said in his Jan. 28 email to the News. “Also on that same day, at 6:35 p.m. Mr. Battles called me about the special meeting for that day.
“I will not detail every event relative to this matter but one such major happening was the fact that my wife was having ‘strokes’ and of course I shall always make that my first priority,” Mount continued. “I am terribly sorry if this does not please you.”
The councilman’s April 30 letter to Battles detailed four reasons for not attending the employment sessions, set as a special meeting that evening. In advising Battles he would not be available for the meeting, Mount stated: “1. Curtailment and not allowed to ask all of my questions of candidates; 2. Selective audience allowed to be present in the executive meetings; 3. I have already received all the information that I need to know about the golf course and restaurant in El Reno (not relevant to subject at hand); and 4. Lack of receipt of timely notice required by law, of the special meeting.”
In checking city records, staff posted the meeting notice according to state public meeting requirements; Battles could not have called Mount at 6:35 p.m. because the meeting began at 6:30 p.m., officials said.
When asked if it is important for council members to be a part of the city manager hiring process, Mount did not respond.
Rooney’s hiring seemed to accelerate the councilman’s letters, emails and open records requests. The city manager said his staff has been deluged by requests that have kept them from their regular duties.
September 2013 was a month in which Mount sent 14 emails, letters and requests for information to Rooney and his staff. According to city records, requests ranged from a Sept. 5 letter asking for bank statements as of June 30, 2013 for “20 different bank accounts” to several missives concerning clean-up expenses and FEMA reimbursements made to Mustang as a result of the May 31 storm. It was at that time Rooney said he “struck back” at what he called the bullying and harassment of his staff.
“The staff of the finance department and this organization needs to move forward in closing out the books for 2013 – which needs to be completed by Sept. 30, 2013,” Rooney told Mount in his Sept. 20, 2013 email to the councilman. “That needs to be our focus over the next 10 days and I am going to be certain to afford them that opportunity.
“Unless directed to do so by an action of the entire city council, I will not be responding to any more of your emails or letters regarding your need for clarity and understanding on FEMA related reimbursements,” he continued.
“I do appreciate your permission to contact the state of Oklahoma, as if I needed it,” Mount responded in a Sept. 21 email. “I like your threat wherein you state, ‘you are the only member…This must stop.’
“It truly frightens me when I am threatened by anyone so why don’t you just proceed right ahead on and do what you think is best,” the councilman continued. “What ever it is that I do, that you will not tolerate will not keep me awake at night and I suggest that you proceed with your corrective measures.”
In response to Rooney’s statement the finance department needed to finish closing out the city books as of Sept. 30 and would hold off on responding to Mount’s document requests until that was completed, Mount said, “I realize that you already know that I did not address the most important statement made by you in your email to me. I admit that initially I was just considering holding on to it until a more opportune time, date and venue.
Invoking portions of the Freedom of Information Act, Mount stated, “Since you have invoked the ‘negative compliance and published notice that you intend to violate the law,’ I, Don Mount as one member of the entire city council DIRECT YOU to comply with all open record request including but not limited to FEMA related reimbursements documents and any and all other open record request in accordance with and in compliance with the laws of the great state of Oklahoma. Please take notice.”
Rooney said while he didn’t have an issue with any council member asking questions and requesting information, it was the tone of those communications and the fact the city manager said Mount had a good deal of the information already in his hands.
“A lot of these things have been items Mr. Mount already had in his possession,” Rooney said. “They were concerning items he had voted on as a councilman – a lot of times voting in favor of them.”
“I suppose that when you were employed and came to Mustang as city manager, that my hopes and expectations were much too great,” Mount wrote to Rooney in a Jan. 11 email. “I thought perhaps you would be the Messiah that Mustang needed so badly, at least those were the kind of thoughts I had.”
While disputes between the councilman and city manager have been frequent, Mount’s “disdain” for anyone who displeases him has been made very public, Mayor Jay Adams said. Through a series of letters to the editor, Mount waged what Adams called a “personal campaign,” while also emailing fellow council members, Rooney, City Attorney Jonathan Miller, staff and outside contractors about a myriad of issues that displeased him.
“I just picked up my council book and started thumbing through the agenda items when I came upon agenda item commentary, item H-1,” Mount stated in a Jan. 4 email to Miller. “I immediately dropped the book and ran into the bathroom, looked in the mirror to see if the word ‘stupid’ was written on my forehead.
“The reason that I had to check this out is because of the longevity of this item, the handling of it and the professional people associated with it,” he continued.
Miller replied there were no issues or illegalities with the agenda item. Mount voted, along with his fellow council members, in favor of the item, a request to send out for bids the Wild Horse Park baseball and soccer complex concession and restroom project.
“It is becoming more and more difficult for me to sit in the mockery of a formal council meeting,” Mount wrote to fellow council members in an Oct. 2 email. “Perhaps the new city manager thinks that he has an equal voice, consideration, rights and discussion privileges as does a city council member.
“I think that early in the new city manager’s tenure, it should be explained to him exactly what his duties and responsibilities are,” Mount concluded.
Mount has alleged wrongdoing by the city on several occasions, even after Miller and others have stated there was no illegal activity.
“I am not able to understand why the city will not abide by the law and go ahead and spend the money to properly do this job,” Mount stated to Miller in a Jan. 4 email. “I am not able to understand why the city of Mustang wants to circumvent the law.”
“We still believe that the handling of this matter from the inception to date, is a deliberate and intentional gross violation of the Public Competitive Bidding Act by the City of Mustang,” Mount stated to Rooney in a Jan. 11 letter.
Rooney said staff conferred with Miller and bond counsel on the issue – an electrical switch accidentally left off the original Town Center remodel contract.
“There was no problem, no issues with legality or bidding,” the city manager said, pointing to emails from officials advising a change order on the project was appropriate.
“I still enjoy what I some time refer to as Cinderella stories or fairy tales,” Mount stated in a Sept. 18 email to Rooney concerning the city budget. “In my opinion, the report is distorted, misleading and does not make disclosure of the true facts.
“This report does not consider any related costs for any of these, nor does it give any consideration to the cost of insurance,” he continued. “I see reports like this and I am reminded of what the great Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, verse 11; ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I thought as a child; but when I be came a man, I put away childish things,’ therefore I no longer believe in fairy tales.”
“Because you do not like the report or do not understand it does not mean it is ‘distorted, misleading, and does not make disclosure of the true facts.’ In fact, you include figures in your email that are not reimbursable and are directly misleading,” Rooney replied on Sept. 20.
“I am not on any kind of witch hunt and I am not trying to uncover any thing,” Mount stated in a Jan. 21 email to the News. “I probably put forth more effort in trying to do a good job on behalf of the citizens than most elected officials do.
“I am an elected official that represents the Citizens who elected me and I bow down to no man,” he continued.
“In your fourth paragraph, your bold and positive statement is totally without merit, but to answer your question – statements made in the commentary give reason,” Mount stated in his Jan. 28 email to the News. “The documents give reason. The lack of documents give reason and further I do not choose to make full disclosure of all things at this time.”
The “fourth paragraph” was a query about a Jan. 21 agenda item, in which council approved the purchase of five replacement vehicles for Mustang Police Department, on which Mount was the lone vote cast against the expenditure. “Why did you vote against the purchase of the five new police cars at last council meeting,” was the question asked of the councilman.