“I am saddened by the accusations and believe this behavior is the reason qualified and dedicated people don’t want to get involved in city government,” said Ward II Claremore City Councilman Mick Webber in a prepared one-page statement.
Webber is among three city councilors named in an ethics complaint filed last Friday with the Claremore City Ethics Committee.
Mayor Flo Guthrie, councilors Don Myers and Paula Watson filed the complaint suggesting the three have attempted to interfere with personnel decisions made by the city manager. The complaint alleges Webber, Tom Lehman and Karen Hinkle violated the city’s ethics ordinance and City Charter.
Webber, who is in his second four-year term, believes the ethics complaint centers around two issues: his company’s sponsorship of a hole on the recently approved Claremore Frisbee Golf Course and the possibility of a “conflict of interest” because at least one of his fellow councilors works at HydroHoist Marine Group.
“The have accused me of ‘gaining money by my position.’ So that it is understood, a proposal for a community Frisbee golf course was presented to (the Claremore) City Council. This project was the original idea of a Claremore High School student who was hoping to succeed in completing a community service project.
“I recused myself from the vote, as my wife’s niece was the student making the proposal. She had in her plan to raise money for the course by selling hole sponsorships. Because my company, HydroHoist Marine Group, agreed to sponsor a hole the above mentioned councilors deem that as my attempt to ‘profit through advertising.’ As any businessperson in the community will tell you, hole sponsorships are a routine practice and are seen more as a way to support the community then an effort to make a profit.
“However, if this in any way appears unethical, my wife and I will gladly make a personal contribution, instead, in honor of the Webber family.
The Ward II Council also addressed the allegations of “conflict of interest.”
“The two councilors and mayor have stated that there is a ‘conflict of interest’ because Tom Lehman, councilor Ward I and Karen Hinkle, councilor Ward II both work for me.
“In fact, Karen Hinkle does not, and has never worked for me in any capacity. Tom Lehman, a tireless community servant and former pharmacist does indeed work at HyPower, a division of HydroHoist Marine Group. Tom began working at HyPower in 2005.
“He has served on the City Council since 2006. Tom has lived, worked and raised a family in this community, long before he worked at HyPower. I am proud to serve side-by-side with both of these fine community representatives.
The ethics complaint also alleged that Webber, Lehman and Hinkle had interfered with the ongoing duties of the city manager.
Webber responded to this charge by stating, “The second accusation is ‘interfering with the duties of the City Manager.’ As a two-time elected city councilor it is my obligation to ensure the City Manager is effectively and efficiently serving the citizens of Claremore in his/her role. At no time have I ‘interfered with the duties’ and will continue to serve the people of Claremore in my role as councilor.”
The Ward II councilor’s statement also reads, “The mayor and two city councilors (who have still not spoken directly to me regarding any of the accusations) would be best to spend their time and energy in helping to make Claremore the best community we can now and for future generations.”
Webber met with Claremore Progress Publisher Bailey Dabney and Editor Randy Cowling Thursday afternoon and agreed to meet again for a follow-up interview.