November 2008 Editorial Winner

Without an apology Gall should step down
By Randy Cowling, Owasso Reporter

Elected officials take an oath when they take office. This oath is a solemn pledge to the citizens they represent and serve.

When an elected official ignores the oath for personal or unknown reasons, the public should lose trust in that official.

On Tuesday evening councilor D. J. Gall did just that. Whether offended by the outcome of the discussions on issues or disregarding the reason he was elected, Gall walked out of the council meeting. 

He said he had somewhere to be. Somewhere to be?

As a city councilor, elected by the citizens of Owasso, the place Gall should be three Tuesdays of every month is in the council chambers working with his fellow councilors in conducting city business.

On Tuesday evening, there were only three councilors in attendance. Due to the illness of Jon Sinex and a family medical emergency preventing Wayne Guevara from being at the meeting, this left Mayor Stephen Cataudella, Doug Bonebrake and Gall to carry on business. Without three councilors there is not a quorum to approve anything.

Only one time in four years has the Owasso City Council had to be canceled due to the lack of a quorum. Never in that time has a councilor walked out in the middle of a meeting, essentially ceasing the council's ability to pay bills or approve measures on the agenda.

Gall, who led the vote against establishing an agreement with Tulsa Transit, was upset that an item on the consent agenda has been removed at the request of another councilor. Gall and Doug Bonebrake voted against the transit deal while Cataudella voted to bring the express line to Owasso from Tulsa. City ordinance allows any councilor to ask for any item on the consent agenda be removed for any reason.

Following a 2 to 1 vote to kill the Tulsa Transit proposal, Gall joined the other councilors in approving an engineering services contract with Benham Companies. As Cataudella read the next item on the agenda, Gall asked that the item be tabled. The council was set to go into executive session to discuss the compensation package of the city manager. The mayor asked why.

"I have somewhere I need to be," Gall said.

Cataudella asked, "Are you leaving?"

"Yes I am leaving." Gall said.

Gall briefly rose from his seat as Cataudella  and Bonebrake looked stunned. He quickly sat down and said a motion to adjourn was in order. Ray stepped in telling the council no motion was necessary, but if one councilor were to leave the room a quorum would not be met and business would cease. Gall left his seat, told the crowd thanks for coming and walked out of the chambers at 7:20 p.m.

Still remaining for councilors was the entire public works and golf authority agendas with thousands of dollars in claims to be approved. Gall was erratic in his behavior. This creates a serious concern for the council and citizens. By walking out of the meeting, he left the city's ability to pay its bills in limbo. It reminds anyone of children on a playground having a disagreement and one taking their toys home because others will not play their way. This is much more serious. Gall has failed his fiduciary responsibility as a trustee of city government. Gall needs to apologize to his fellow councilors for his behavior. Citizens deserve a rational reason for his walking out of the meeting. If he cannot provide leadership in a mature manner, maybe he should consider leaving the council. Based on his outburst and actions on Tuesday this would be the best outcome. Without an apology, Gall should step down as Ward 1 councilor.