This article was originally posted on February 29, 2012, in very preliminary form and it has taken me until May 9 to finish it. It is VERY long (about 69 pages if you can print it without the left pane and top banner) but it is bookmarked so that you can move quickly to what you want to see. The largest section by far is a rather thorough account of the fascinating history of the Gold Dome, originally Citizens State Bank, which contains about 56 pages. Enjoy!
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or click below for even larger views …
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I rarely make a post based upon just a single photograph, but this is the exception that proves the rule — based upon the photo, I’ll write three articles, this being the first. A good friend and excellent Oklahoma City attorney, Jim Slayton, recently furnished me with a paper photo that he owns — one of his clients mailed it to him on February 24, 1967 — and the photo was probably taken in January or February 1967 or in late 1966 at the earliest. As you can see, the downtown skyline is in the background, a substantial part of Midtown is in the middle, and the Gold Dome and other properties along NW 23rd Street are in the foreground. The photo was taken from a vantage point slightly north of NW 23rd and Classen Boulevard and looks southeasterly toward downtown.
This is the first of three articles which takes a closer look at many of this photo’s pieces … organized by slices.
The Middle Slice — Midtown — This Will Come Next
The Bottom Slice — Uptown — This Is Presented Here
The remainder of this Part 1 article focuses upon the parts within the bottom slice above shown, with a good bit of history thrown in.
Click on any image for a larger view
|1 — Beverly’s||5 — Vacuum Cleaner Sup.||9 — Cinema Mayflower|
|2 — Battens Flowers||6 — Oklahoma Blueprint||10 — Beef & Bun Restaurant|
|3 — Gold Bond Gifts||7 — Townleys Milk Bottle||11 — Someplace Else|
|4 — Hammond Organ||8 — Classen Cafeteria||12 — Citizens State Bank|
Bottom Slice History & Additional Images. The 1967 photo certainly does not take in all of “Uptown” — it does not go eastbound much further than Western Avenue — but it nonetheless contains that part of Uptown which was centered around Classen and NW 23rd. Historical notes and images relevant to the bottom slice of this 1967 photo follow. For the most part, boldfaced names are the property occupants at the time the 1967 photo was taken.
- Beverly’s Chicken In the Rough. I’m not able to document when this Beverly’s at 1220 NW 23rd came to exist — the earliest Oklahoman reference I’ve located is a February 27, 1966 want-ad for a waitress. But, Mo Moon (see the 1st comment at the end of this article) remembers it being there in 1962 or 1963. Note, also, that Mo recalls “the fresh-squeeze orange juice from those tall, green juicers, and the fact that the waitresses were all required to wear girdles beneath their neat white uniforms,” points worth remembering! In 1988, the same property became the home of Jeff’s Country Cafe but in 2004 it became the location of a Walgreen’s Pharmacy. Then, Jeff’s Country Cafe moved to its present location at 3401 N. Classen. For more, see discussion in the Citizens State Bank section, below.
- Batten’s Flower & Gift Shop. This florist business was one of, if not the, oldest in the city when this 1967 photo was taken and was then owned by Roy E. Stephenson and his wife Sara Marie Stephenson, nee Batten. In 1921, the business was owned by Sara’s parents and its sole location was 320 or 322 W. Main (varying by Oklahoman ads) — see this 1924 Oklahoman ad as an example — but it expanded to include other locations, as well, including NW 23rd & Harvey in 1952. The location shown in this 1967 photo was built in 1956. Roy E. Stephenson died in December 1971 followed by his wife, Sara, in August 1982. The business continued to operate at the location, presumably by surviving family members, until at least until 1988, the last Oklahoman ad appearing in the Oklahoman on February 9, 1988. Today, the property is the home of Fashion Sports and Uniforms.
- Gold Bond Gifts. This is the place where Gold Bond Stamp hoarders took their books of stamps to exchange them for goods, e.g., electric shavers and the like. IGA groceries were some of the more prominent retailers that used Gold Bond Stamps to encourage shopping — Central National Bank did so, as well.
- Hammond Organ Studios of Oklahoma City. Until sometime in the mid-1950s, this property was residential. Its first commercial use appears to have been a Blalock Oil gas station, that venture being purchased by Kerr McGee in 1955. Before 1961, it became Lee Devin TV, but it became Hammond Organ Studios of Oklahoma City with an August 1, 1961, grand opening and that business lasted at least through 1975. By 1979, the premises became Audio Associates. Today, this property is part of the Jade Asian Plaza. County Assessor records reflect that this small shopping center was built in 1972, but it is evident from the 1967 photo that it was built several years earlier. Today, the strip shopping center which contains both #3 and #4 is known as the Jade Asian Plaza, shown below on March 1, 2012.
- Vacuum Cleaner Supply. If you’re like me, you think of this business located at 2405-2407 Classen as “Hoovers Vacuum” since that name is and has been prominently displayed and even though the business name for this mom and pop vacuum service center was and is “Vacuum Cleaner Supply.”
The first Oklahoman ad I located for this business was May 5, 1960, shown here at 2407 Classen. The building abutting 2407 to the south was 2405 Classen until the buildings were joined to form a single property. Current County Assessor records show that Winfred and Velma Parker own the properties and that they also own property #6, below.
The Hoover shop is presently boarded up and appears to have ceased operations, even though its vacuums and parts thereof are readily viewable from the sidewalk in its overflow storage location in the former Rainbow Records to the south. See Oklahoma Blue Print below. County Assessor records show the property was constructed in 1914. Oklahoman want ads show that 2405 Classen was used for various purposes — in 1959 it was the campaign headquarters of Ralph M. Cissne, Ward 1 election candidate; from 1960 through 1963, it was Tom Ford Company, a carpet and furniture seller.
- Oklahoma Blue Print & Supply Co. Although I’m showing the County Assessor’s 2005 photo of Rainbow Records here (since that’s probably what most of us remember for this location), this property at 2401 Classen was Oklahoma Blue Print & Supply Co. when the 1967 photo was taken. County Assessor records show present ownership of the property are the same Parkers identified in #5, above, that it was constructed in 1914, and that the building was very oddly shaped. Earlier Oklahoman ads and articles show that the property was a Klein Oil Co. service station in 1925, Southern Meats & Groceries in 1930, Roberts Drug Co. between 1946 and March 1964, a Mobil Service Station in November 1964, and then Oklahoma Blue Print & Supply Co. in October 1965 until at least January 1969. In 1975, the location became Rainbow Records, once said to be “Oklahoma’s oldest independent record store,” and that is how most of us remember the property. Rainbow Records moved to 3709 N. Western in March 2004.
Today, the property seems to be the overflow location of lots of used vacuum cleaners, parts, and other stuff by the building’s present owners. The photos below were taken on March 1, 2012, looking through the windows of the former Rainbow Records premises. JenX has blogged about this and I am compelled to agree with her, even though I lean to giving the benefit of the doubt to local mom and pop stores. Probably, nothing can be done as long as the owners follow city code requirements. But, someday, perhaps the owners may come to have a sense of civic pride. Or not. Also, see this part of #12, Citizens State Bank, below.
- Townley’s Milk Bottle. The very large white milk bottle was placed on top of the very small flatiron building building at 2426 N. Classen in 1948. The small flatiron 1920 building is listed on the National Historical Register of Historic Places, something which would not likely have happened but for the bottle.
The County Assessor’s drawing shows the building’s floorspace at only 392 square feet, and it’s hard to imagine that a tenant could pull off a successful business there.
But, as part of today’s Oklahoma City Asian District, the present day Saigon Baguette has managed to pull that off that improbability. This photo was taken on March 1, 2012.
However, before Braum’s, there was Townley’s, the bottle in place when the 1967 photo was taken and the milk bottle that older folk identify with. Oklahoma City renowned artist Greg Burns shows the Townley’s milk bottle which made it an Oklahoma City icon.
But what were the origins of this small tract, building, and milk bottle? Brandon Bowman writes this here:
The unusual shape of the property was created by the diagonal meeting of the old Belle Isle streetcar line with northwest 23rd Street. The resulting triangular lot was chosen as the construction site for a similarly shaped building, which was completed in 1930. Originally known as “Triangle Grocery and Market”, the building was a stop on the streetcar line until the rail service was stopped in 1947, and the tracks were paved for roads. Despite no longer being a way point for mass transit, the little triangle building and site remained prime commercial territory, a small island in a sea of traffic.
The name of the building was changed to “Milk Bottle Grocery” shortly after a large metal milk bottle sign was added to the roof in 1948. With the lack of adjacent ground space for a sign, the only space left available for a sign was the roof. To be effective, the sign had to be sufficiently eye-catching to gain the attention of passing traffic, and the result was a metal sign almost as tall as the building itself. The sign, being 8 feet wide and almost 11 feet tall, almost dwarfs the building that serves as its base. It’s constructed of sheet metal, and has a tapered neck, rimmed mount, and crenelated cap, just like the old glass milk bottles of the early 20th century. The sign was traditionally rented separately from the building below, and was used to advertise local dairies. Over the years, the sign has advertised Steffen’s Dairy, Townley’s Dairy, and nowadays carries the Braum’s emblem.
Bowman’s observations are completely consistent with the registry application filed with the with National Register of Historical Places, and that’s good enough for me and there you have it.
- Classen Cafeteria. This property was located at 2400 N. Classen (most often called 2400 Classen) Boulevard and, when the principal photo was taken in December 1966 or January 1967, it was Classen Cafeteria (observable by clicking on the thumbnail shown here), the entry being from Classen Boulevard. The earliest Oklahoman mention I could find for the address is a 1940 ad showing that it was a Humpty-Dumpty grocery. In the mid-1940s O’Mealey’s Cafeteria opened their first business in the property. Vanished Splendor II by Jim Edwards and Hal Ottaway (Abalache Book Shop Publishing 1983) says that Classen Cafeteria began its operations at the address in mid-1948 and the Oklahoman’s first mention was in February 1948.
This image is is a postcard from Vanished Spendor II. The book’s text says that Classen Cafeteria closed “sometime in 1967.” Later tenants were Jeans America (1972), The Jeannery (1972), Oklahoma Rehab, Inc. (at least by 1993 and into 1994). In 1996 a $500,000 building permit was issued to Anderson & House to construct a retail store, and, presumably but I’m not certain, this project involved the destruction of the building shown in the 1967 photo. In any event, the property became part of the parking lot for an Eckerd Drug, and, later, the CVS Pharmacy at 2412 N. Classen which occupies the space today.
- Cinema Mayflower. Independent suburban theater owner Sam Caporal’s Mayflower Theater at 1133 NW 23rd Street opened in April 1938 with the 1936 movie Pennies From Heaven staring Bing Crosby and featuring Louis Armstrong in a supporting role, a rare happening in that day. Click here for the Oklahoman’s movie ad.
This wasn’t Caporal’s first suburban movie venture, he having established the Yale Theater in Capitol Hill at least as early as 1921 according to William D. Welge’s Oklahoma City Remembered (Arcadia Publishing 2007). Caporal later built and operated the Bison (1941 – 1314 NE 23rd) and Skyview Drive-In (1948 – 3800 NE 23rd).
As best as I can determine, the theater rarely if ever showed first run movies but in the main they were good solid movies, often double or triple features. In 1966 the Mayflower Theater closed temporarily to be completely remodeled and reopen in October as the Cinema Mayflower, the original intent being to present quality foreign films. That idea eventually failing, in its last years, the theater resorted to X-rated films which perhaps catered to a daytime male business-worker group — such as might occur for an extended lunch-and-a-movie break (yeah, I’ve been there and done that).
1975 – Credit Jeff Chapman
1985 – Credit American Classic
After the movie theater closed around 1991, comments here say that the property operated as “Planet Earth” for a time as a live music venue. The property was purchased in 1996 by Vietnamese refugee immigrants Johnny and Tina Hy who opened Asian Restaurant, and, today, it is part of Sun Moon Plaza. A March 2012 photo of the former Mayflower is shown below.
- Beef & Bun Restaurant. That was the name of the business property at 1107 NW 23rd Street in 1967 when the aerial photo was taken. In 1944 the residential property which then occupied the space was either destroyed or removed and from 1947 through 1963 the Carnation Company operated a business at the property, it frequently advertising in the Oklahoman for fountain help and waitresses during that 16-year period. See the Carnation Ice Cream Store article in Steve Lackmeyer’s Oklahoma City history website for much more about that store, including photos.
For a time, the property experienced an ethnic identity crisis. From 1965 through 1972, it was the Beef & Bun but for a short time in 1974 it was the home of “Happy Days,” a Jack Sussy Italian restaurant. By 1979 until 1981, it was the home of R. L. Sullivan’s Steak & Spaghetti restaurant and in 1982 it was renovated to become the home of New Orleans and southern cooking as Rhett’s Place, but that only lasted until 1983. In July 1983, the property was renovated and became the home of “the 23 Corner” restaurant operated by Loc & Kim Le. Loc, a political refugee from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975, was one of the many Vietnamese who came to call Oklahoma City home. But, other than egg rolls, Asian food was apparently not on the menu. When 23 Corner opened, Loc and Kim already owned and operated two Jimmy’s Egg restaurants in the city and American food was the principal offering at 23 Corner, including the same omelets served at their Jimmy’s Eggs in addition to steaks, hamburgers, and seafood dishes. I’ve not determined when 23 Corner stopped operating but Loc and his family has continued the expansion of Jimmy’s Egg with other franchises in and beyond the city.
By July 1985 the property became the home of Shalimar India restaurant which appears to have operated at the location until 1987. In fact, I got my first taste of India-Indian cuisine there and loved it.
In May 1988, the property was again remodeled and this time it became Kim Son, its owner Phung Hy serving Chinese, Vietnamese, Cantonese and other Asian foods. This restaurant lasted until 1995 or 1996 — the only Oklahoman evidence during that time being reports of a murder which occurred in November 1995 in the kitchen over a dispute concerning the victim’s wife’s fidelity. Both the victim and the accused, who plead guilty to manslaughter in May 1996, had the same last name. The Oklahoman report of the conviction was the paper’s last mention of Kim Son. By the time the 1996 photo below was taken, the property was called China Garden.
In 2004, the property was purchased by Asian Plaza, Inc., and Steve Lackmeyer reported in the July 26, 2006, Oklahoman that Mike Nguyen and Denny Ha, they having purchased this and other adjoining properties, had big plans to create a new “gateway” into Oklahoma City’s Asian District called “Sun Moon Plaza.” Although the recent recession appears to have put that project on hold, by the time this article is written it is fully underway. In the March 1, 2012, photo below, the property’s location would be to the left of the leftmost building shown in the photo.
Sun Moon Plaza
- Someplace Else Deli & Bakery and Cookies Tavern. Unfortunately, the 1967 aerial photo of this property immediately east of the Gold Dome is not sufficiently crisp to be able read any signage on either of these buildings. The signage on the property at 2310 N. Western, Someplace Else today, appears to begin with “25,” but that’s far from certain, and the property located at 2304 N. Western, Cookies tavern today, is even less helpful in the 1967 aerial. The only thing certain is that neither property bore their present day names, shown below on March 1, 2012.
That said, here’s a bit of each property’s prior history. County Assessor records state that each property was constructed in 1935. The Someplace Else business has existed since 1976 but I don’t know when Cookies tavern was born but it was by 2001. Today, both properties have the same owners, David and Peggy Carty, the operators of the deli.
2310 N. Western. Among other uses and names, this property was a small grocery and meat market (1947), Moser’s Pet Shop (1952-53), Universal Improvement Co. (1955), appliance repair (1959-60), DeSpain Realty (1962), Doll Haven & Hospital (1963-64), Acme Vacuum Sales (1964-65), AAA Upholstery (1968), and, most notably, Sound Warehouse (1972-1973), which I understand was that company’s first location.
2304 N. Western. In 1947, this property was advertised for rent as a storeroom, it measuring only 20 x 40 feet, with a glass front. In 1947, Robert Goodman’s beer license was revoked (the property being immediately east of Jefferson School — see Citizens State Bank, below) but that decision was appealed — the Oklahoman does not report the outcome but the appeal likely lost since Jefferson did not cease operating as a school until May 1950. Oklahoman ads between 1948 and 1985 do show the property’s names as Emerald Lounge (1948), Embro Lounge (1953), Ralph’s Club (1985). By November 2001, the premises were advertised as “Cookies.”
About the above pair of properties, Jim Kyle, a contributor here and former Oklahoman reporter, adds a bit more via his comment here on March 14:
Someplace Else was established in 1976. Peggy was a co-worker of my wife’s at the Crum & Forster Insurance Company’s claims office in the American Fidelity complex, and I remember the going-away party they had when she and David opened the deli. We still visit there often; David’s baked goods (made on the premises) are the best available!
When Cookie’s was operating as the Emerald Lounge, its owner also ran stock car races at a small track located on N. May avenue, near the present location of the Honeybaked Ham place. The track circled a small farm pond, and even ran over its dam. I used to shoot photos at the track on Sunday afternoons; he paid the winners at the lounge every Sunday night, so I would process the photos in a hurry and have 8 x 10s available for the winners to buy with their winnings that night! Thanks for bringing back those memories…
You are more than welcome, Jim, but mainly, thanks to you for the additional memories about this fine pair of properties which would otherwise have been unknown!
- Citizens State Bank aka the Gold Dome. I’ve saved the best for the last in this bottom slice of the 1967 aerial photo, and it will take longer to tell the story than any of the above have. Constructed only about 9 years before the 1967 photo, this story not only involves the building structure and good times, it involves bank failure and the corruption of an eventual principal owner, but, in the end, the building’s salvation and redemption which was spearheaded by citizens concerned with the building’s preservation.
Glory Days Masked & Dark Days Corruption Bazarian
Mitchell Charges Mitchell Trial Appeal Mitchell Aftermath
Later Banks Salvation Restoration
● Origins — Jefferson Elementary School. Way before the Gold Dome was the 1905 Jefferson School which sat between Classen and Western along NW 23rd Street. I’ve not located any good images of the school, so the September 24, 1916, Oklahoman image will have to do for now.
The school was built in 1905 to serve the then far northwest part of the city, but as early as December 1905 it was seen as being too small to serve the city’s expanding northwest and in October 1907 four additional rooms were ready for use. Between these two dates, overall city student attendance grew by more than 1,000 students — 4,600 in December 1905 to 5,700 in October 1907.
I didn’t make a thorough study of the Oklahoman’s archives concerning the school, but this September 20, 1916, article did catch my fancy:
“Statue Bell” Is New Feature Introduced at Jefferson School — The “statue bell,” inaugurated at the Jefferson school by Principal G.B. Mitchell, is an innovation in the school signals in Oklahoma City. Four times a day — just before school starts in the morning and for the afternoon session, and at the close of each recess, the bell is sounded. Its ringing is a signal for every child to drop everything and become absolutely motionless. The pose lasts for sixty seconds.
The purpose of this bell is not only to teach the child the habit of instant obedience but also to prepare him to march into his classroom with a minimum of commotion.
The new bell has been used at the Jefferson school for about a week and it is proving to be decidedly successful, Mr. Mitchell said. [Emphasis supplied.]
Holy Human Midget Statues, Batman — principal Mitchell’s grade school kids must have been hell on wheels back in 1916 to merit them being turned into stone four times a day — or maybe it was only Mitchell who was the devil. I am reminded of Pink Floyd’s classic 1979 rock opera, The Wall … “Wrong! Do it again!” … “If you don’t eat yer meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?!”, and “You! Yes! You behind the bikesheds! Stand still, laddie!” One can but wonder if the good principal himself tried being a 60-second statue four times a day, Monday through Friday, or ever. “All in all it’s just another brick in the wall,” I’m thinkin’.
Skipping forward, the school board closed Jefferson School in May 1950 over heated objections by parents. Between the closing through 1954 or so the building was used as part of the school systems administrative offices and for other purposes. In September 1954 some if not all of the property was zoned for commercial use by the city council, over the objection of the city planning department, and the school board wanted to sell the property for commercial use, as well. In February 1956, attorneys David Shapard and Woodrow McConnell and insurance agency owner Hill Hodges signed a 120-day $410,000 option agreement to acquire the property and create an “ultra modern” 16-story on the property but the prospective purchasers failed to exercise their option. Finally, the September 5, 1956, Oklahoman reported that Citizens State Bank had agreed to purchase the property for $351,000 for its new location, although the agreement was contingent of full payment by February 1957. The last $150,000 payment was made on February 1 or 2, 1957, and the stage was set for Citizens State Bank to build its new building.
● Citizens State Bank. Citizens State Bank organized in December 1946, incorporators being C.R. Anthony, Fred Sewell, Felix Simmons, B.D. Eddie, V.V. Harris, and Virgil Brown, and its initial facility at 601 NW 23, on the northwest corner of Dewey and NW 23rd, opened for business on May 27, 1948. Even though presently vacant, the property still stands as shown by this photo taken in March 2012. The images below show the bank shortly after its construction and a few years later after adding a drive-through to the west. Both are from the Oklahoma Historical Society archives.
Advertising itself as a convenient suburban bank but with all of the facets of a downtown bank, the state bank grew rapidly and outgrew its original home and in only eight years, by September 1956, total deposits reached $20 million and it was the largest “state” bank in the state and the 9th largest of any bank in Oklahoma.
● The Gold Dome Is Born. When the bank purchased the old Jefferson School property for its new location in 1957, the remarkable design of its new facility wasn’t publicly known. After razing the school, bids were solicited for the project in November 1957, but if the Oklahoman contained any description of the property before May 1958 I couldn’t find it. It may well be that the public’s first knowledge was in the newspaper’s May 8, 1958, story and construction photo, the photo appearing below. Those passing by the Classen & NW 23rd intersection must have been puzzled and fascinated.
Also, see this December 7, 1958, Oklahoman article for some additional description. The general contractor was Secor Construction Co. of the city but the geodesic dome itself was being assembled by Dale Benz Inc. of Phoenix. The article says that the dome would include 625 diamond shaped panels of gold anodized aluminum and that its assembly began on May 7 and was amazingly expected to be complete only one week later.
The first geodesic dome was designed by German Walther Bauersfeld to house his planetarium which was completed in 1926 in Jena, Germany, but it was Richard Buckminster Fuller who coined the term “geodesic” and improved upon the science and and popularized it — he received a U.S. patent for his version of the dome in June 1954. He is shown in this July 2004 stamp with a domed head, the stamp commemorating the 50th anniversary of Fuller’s patent.
I’m just guessing, but one would suppose that neither the bank’s 1957-1958 owners nor directors came up with the notion of using the then fledgling concept of a geodesic dome for the new bank. Most probably, that idea came from the architects they selected, the Oklahoma City firm of Bailey, Bozalis, Dickenson & Roloff. The 2003 documentation submitted to request registration of the building on the National Register of Historic Places indicates that Robert B. Roloff was the principal architect. Like Larry Nichols and Devon Energy decades later, the bank’s owners and directors apparently chose to make an architectural statement in their city, and they did. Admission of the dome to that august organization of American historic structures occurred in 2003.
The initially planned opening date of the day after Labor Day did not happen, but, on Sunday, December 7, 1958, the new bank was open for public inspection, and on December 8 it was open for business. A photo from the December 7, 1958, Oklahoman shows a view of the interior.
● Glory Days. Citizens State Bank opened for business at the Gold Dome on Monday December 8, 1958, following an open house to the public on Sunday, and it was a sight to behold. Although the gold color has faded now, the photos below from the Oklahoma Historical Society show that the building’s cap was indeed a brilliant gold.
Under the leadership of its board chairman and chief executive C.R. Anthony, Citizens continued its growth in the Gold Dome. In 1963, it shed its state bank status and became Citizens National Bank of Oklahoma City. In January 1970 Citizens added a trust department and the bank got its final name, Citizens National Bank & Trust Co. of Oklahoma City.
Although not owned by Citizens, several of its owners and directors joined to purchase the block south of the bank during 1960-1963. An August 2, 1963, Oklahoman article told why — those investors would build an office building, Citizens Tower, south of the bank. The article reported that the building would be 25 stories tall and would be designed by the same architect, Bob Roloff of Bailey, Bozalis, Dickenson & Roloff, that had designed Citizens State Bank only a few years earlier. It, too, would maximize gold anodized diamonds which were very compatible with the bank’s design. The article notes that B.D. Eddie was president of Citizens Tower Corporation and that other of Citizens’ officers and directors were involved with the project — C.R. Anthony, Myron Horton, L.A. Macklanburg, V.V. Harris, Jr., among others. This building, which was actually built to 21 stories, will be more particularly described in Oklahoma City Circa 1967 — Part 2.
At least by 1965, Citizens became the city’s 5th largest bank and 9th largest bank in the state — by 1976, Citizens’ deposits broke $100 million for the first time and it was the city’s 4th largest, behind Liberty, First National, and Fidelity. That remained true through 1979. A general January 13, 1980, Oklahoman article boasted that assets at metro area banks approached the $5 billion level in the 1979 year. The article quotes various metro banking officers as saying such things as,
[Wilfred] Clarke [of Fidelity] expects the Oklahoma City economy to continue to grow, describing it as “vigorous, diversified, expanding and strong.” * * * Jack Foster, president of fourth-ranked Citizens National Bank, attributed increased earnings to expansion of the bank’s commercial lending to firms able to pay the 15 percent to 17 percent interest on their loans. Foster said Citizens Bank’s earnings increased 22 percent before taxes last year, and 14.49 percent after taxes, compared with 1978 profits.
At the time, Oklahoma City metropolitan unemployment was only 2.9% (compared to the nation’s rate of just under 6%), and, as well, the city’s General Motors assembly plant went into production in May 1979 and added more than 5,000 jobs to metro employment.
The article also includes this then-benign observation …
Banking executives agreed that a booming rise in oil and natural gas exploration, production and land leasing contributed primarily to the increase in business activity and jobs.
A March 2, 1980, Oklahoman article presented detail on the performance of the 13 Oklahoma banks with assets of $100 million or more … published asset values, rounded down, are shown here …
|1 1st NB, Okc — $1.5B||5 Fidelity, Okc — $522M||9 F&M, Tul — $210M|
|2 Liberty, Okc — $1.2B||6 4th NB, Tul — $317M||10 Citizens, Okc — $155M|
|3 BOK, Tul — $977M||7 Utica, Tul — $283M||11 Commerce, Tul — $137M|
|4 1st NB, Tul — $909M||8 1st NB, B’ville — $232M||12 Union, Okc — $125M|
|13 Penn Square, Okc — $114M|
The importance of #13 on the list, Penn Square Bank, would become known two years later when, on July 5, 1982, Penn Square Bank was declared insolvent, probably unknowingly foretold by the above quote in the January 13, 1980, Oklahoman article. A February 15, 1981, Oklahoman article reported that Penn Square Bank replaced Citizens as the city’s fourth largest bank during 1980.
In 1980-1981, oil prices dropped substantially and Penn Square Bank’s speculative oil and gas lending practices, mimicked or indirectly participated in by other banks, started a bank failure domino effect heard around the world — more about that in the next section.
A snapshot of the remarkable rise of Citizens Bank deposits during its history through June 30, 1983, is shown below. Thirty-eight (38) Oklahoman ads and articles published during the period are the sources of this detail which I’ve collectively assembled in the chart below.
But, of course, deposits are not all there is in terms of a bank’s well-being. Citizen’s performance report on June 30, 1985, published in the July 25, 1985, Oklahoman show deposits at $232.4 million. Before the end of 1985, things at Citizens would change.
● Days of Masked Darkness & Failure. Although Citizens was far less aggressively involved with speculative lending than Penn Square Bank (what bank wasn’t?), in 1981-1982 it nonetheless had a substantial loan portfolio that became bad and had to be written off the books, meaning “pretty much uncollectible,” or something like that. Although Citizens did not begin to be referred to as a “troubled bank” until later, a September 12, 1982, article did note that Citizens charged off $4.3 million loans in 1981 and an additional $6 million in April 1982 “as a result of an examination of the bank completed that month.” The article did not identify who had made the examination, but, in the banking business, it is a given that a bank’s examiners are federal level banking types of folk.
A month earlier, an August 17, 1982, article reported that a bank holding company had been established to own Citizens which was called “Citizens National Bankshares Inc.” (actually, the name was Citizens National Bancshares, Inc.). Its stated purpose was to “allow Citizens to respond [with] more flexibility to the changing requirements of the banking public and to permit geographic diversification of bank operations,” said Citizens’ President, Jack Foster. An August 8, 1982, Oklahoman article reported that such holding companies had become a trend and gave further explanation of why the same was occurring. That article said,
Thomas G. Watkins, economist for the Kansas City federal reserve bank, said transfer of ownership to bank holding companies gives owners opportunity to pump more capital into the bank to raise its operating performance, and provides attractive benefits that, in effect, make it possible to buy a bank with a minority of cash and loans from the bank being purchased.
Probably that makes sense to those who are well-versed with banking practices, but to simple ears like mine it sounds more like, “Citizens just ain’t cutting the mustard without someone trying something new.” Probably, that’s just me.
• Dale E. Mitchell. Regardless, that development was the vehicle for the old regime to substantially exit and a new player to enter the unfolding Citizens drama, that being Dale E. Mitchell, then only 39 years old. The Oklahoman reported on September 12, 1982, that,
Oklahoma City banker Dale Mitchell has bought control of Citizens National Bank & Trust Co., and will take over top management of Citizens on Oct. 1, it was confirmed Saturday.
At the time, Mitchell was principal owner of the Bank of Commerce, Tulsa, and had a substantial interest in 1st National, Tulsa (see the table, above). Immediately before the move, he was the president and vice-chairman of First National Bancorporation (i.e., 1st National, Oklahoma City). A September 14, 1982, article said that he “jumped at the chance” to acquire the interest and become chairman and CEO of the bank and its new holding company. The article said,
Mitchell said the opportunity to buy control of Citizens came up quickly only a few weeks ago. “I jumped at it,” he said. ¶ He is resigning as vice chairman of the First Oklahoma Bancorporation, which owns the First National Bank & Trust Co., the state’s largest bank with $3 billion in assets. ¶ In seven years at First National, Mitchell rose from vice president to president and chief executive of the bank and vice chairman of the holding company. ¶ Mitchell acknowledges that he will take a substantial cut in salary and perquisites [ed. note: perks], but he also is starting, at age 39, a career as an owner and chief executive. He owns control of The Bank of Commerce and the neighborhood Gilcrease Hills Bank in Tulsa. ¶ The Bank of Commerce has assets of $270 million, and with the Citizens’ assets of $227 million, Mitchell has control of about $500 million in bank assets, with a joint lending limit of $4½ million. ¶ “We will be able to serve and keep our customers as they grow,” he said.
The article says that Mitchell characterized Citizens as “strong,” and he also said that “energy” loans had been reduced to 5%. As to the loans which had been written off, Mitchell said, “We expect good recoveries from those loans written off.”
In fact, Citizens’ experiences after Mitchell assumed control were optimistic. Below is a photo from a March 3, 1983, Oklahoman article showing Mitchell during a remodel of Citizens’ interior which carried the headline, “Overhauled Citizens Bank All Set for Profitable Year.” Also in this regard, see this April 15, 1983, article.
The March 1983 article called 1982 a “disaster year” for Citizens, even though an Oklahoman reader could not have known that from reading 1982 Oklahoman articles pertaining to Citizens.
Despite the remodeling of the Gold Dome then underway, the article reported that Mitchell said,
“We have to get commercial and retail banking physically separated,” he said. “We need a new building, a square building, but we won’t build until we can afford a new building on our property.”
That remark did not bode well for future of the Gold Dome. Mitchell was evidently interested in seeing Citizens compete with the largest commercial banks in the state, and he was apparently interested in seeing the then defunct Penn Square Bank tower, then named Northwest Tower, but shortly to be renamed Citizens Plaza, become Citizens’ home.
Mitchell acknowledges the differences between executive rank in a $3 billion banking firm, with regional and even international connections, and once a highly profitable bank. He risked the change with the conviction a new era is coming in Oklahoma banking. * * * He is considering the idea of merging the Citizens and Commerce [of Tulsa] Banks into one holding company if the legislature passes the pending multibank measure, and making the Gilcrease Bank in Tulsa a branch of Commerce. ¶ Their consolidated assets have grown to just under $500 million; loans exceed $300 million and deposits are at $420 million.
The June 21, 1983, Oklahoman reported that a young, 32-year old, Timothy A. Baker had been appointed to be Citizens’ president. According to the article, his prior banking experience was vice-president of InterFirst Bank of Dallas in charge of its new loan production office, in addition to Mitchell’s appointment of Baker to be executive vice-president of Citizens in March 1983.
Very quickly, though, Mitchell was recruited to become the savior of Fidelity Bank by a search team headed by Dean A. McGee whom Mitchell had evidently impressed. Mitchell was elected chief executive officer of Fidelity Bank on July 7, 1983, for the apparent purpose of doing at Fidelity what he was at least perceived to have done at Citizens — shed bad energy loans, improve capitalization, and improve profitability. He acquired no stock in Fidelity and kept his holdings in other banks, including Citizens.
But, due to banking regulations, Mitchell could not maintain his leadership roles at Citizens while performing lifeguard duty at Fidelity. At Citizens, Baker became CEO at and Larry Hartzog became chairman of the board, and they led Citizens until Mitchell would return in November or December 1984 (Oklahoman reports varied).
A possible new physical future emerged for Citizens during Mitchell’s absence — but it is inconceivable that major moves would not have been informally discussed between Mitchell, Baker and Hartzog. Even if Mitchell had no official position at Citizens during his hiatus, he remained Citizens’ major owner. The December 2, 1983, Oklahoman contained the bold headline, “Northwest Tower Becomes Citizens Plaza.” Among other things, the article says,
Citizens National Bank & Trust Co. will rent 43,604 square feet of space in the new 21-floor Northwest Tower at Interstate 44 and Northwest Expressway and the name of the building will be changed to Citizens Plaza, it was announced Thursday. * * *Citizens will be designated the anchor tenant, occupying space on the ground floor and on the third and fourth floors. The agreement includes options for Citizens to lease space on the fifth, sixth and seventh floors for future expansion.
The article noted that negotiations had been underway since April (i.e., when Mitchell still held his positions at Citizens), so Mitchell was very clearly involved in the process. The article was vague as to whether the Citizens Plaza property would become the bank’s primary location or would only be a branch and it noted that, either way, the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency’s approval would be required.
A March 20, 1984, article reported that Citizens planned to move to Citizens Plaza in August, leaving the future of the Gold Dome in doubt. The article quoted Tim Baker as saying,
We will either have to refurbish it or tear it down and build a new building on the site. * * * We will maintain banking operations at NW 23 and Classen, but we’re just not sure if it will be a branch or a main headquarters. Our building is 26 years old and it was only meant to have a useful life of 10 to 12 years. The roof leaks, the pipes freeze and the golden dome is not as shiny as it used to be.
Once again, however, the article reported that the move was still waiting the approval of the U.S. comptroller. Status of the Gold Dome became a little clearer in a July 13 article. While noting that Citizens’ original intent was that Citizens Plaza was to become the bank’s headquarters, the application then pending before the comptroller was that the latter would be a branch and that the Classen and NW 23rd location would remain bank headquarters.
Thursday, Tim Baker, Citizens president, said executive offices and lending and trust operations will move to Citizens Plaza when the branch application is approved. He said the Golden Dome at the bank’s current site has inadequate space to handle the bank’s growth, but that it technically will remain the headquarters bank, at least for the present.
Although I admit to doing a bit of tea-leaves-reading here, my suspicion is that Mitchell, Baker and Hartzog wanted Citizens Plaza to become Citizens’ headquarters but that the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency had thrown a critical eye in that regard and that the application, which had been pending since December 1983, had been modified to gain the comptroller’s approval. Mitchell had made very clear that his goal was to make Citizens a player in commercial lending, inclusive of his ventures in Tulsa, particularly the downtown Commerce Bank. On at least four occasions during 1982 and 1983, a side-by side “Statement of Condition” for each bank was published in the Oklahoman, for ending quarters for December 1982, April 1983, June 1983, and September 1983. I’d hazzard a guess that the same thing was occurring in the Tulsa World. See this October 18, 1983, example, published during Mitchell’s stay at Fidelity. Under the common banner, “Oklahoma’s Banks That Mean Business,” were the statements,
There’s a new commercial banking network in Oklahoma. Bank of Commerce in Tulsa. And Citizens Bank in Oklahoma City. The first full-service commercial banking network that’s making history. A business-banking network specifically designed to give your company powerful new resources and expanded service. * * * If your company has branch offices in either the Tulsa or Oklahoma City areas, this new joint working relationship can be particularly advantageous foryou.
Very plainly, the earlier retail/consumer oriented goals of Citizen State Bank’s founders — implied in the choice of the name, “Citizens” — had changed under the Mitchell regime.
A festive black-tie dinner dance in the new Citizen Plaza penthouse (actually, there were two penthouse floors, but who’s counting?) a day or so before December 9 served as sort of a christening party for the new tower. The event was described in a December 9, 1983, Oklahoman society page article like this:
Peter Duchin and his orchestra were flown in from New York to add their special music to the sophisticated atmosphere. * * * It was definitely the black-tie invitation that motivated the “in” crowd to deck themselves out in their holiday finest, put on their dancing shoes and spend a delightful evening high in the sky. * * * Guests could circle the penthouse and take their pick of such delicacies as lobster, lamb chops, thin sliced beef …
Etc., etc., etc. Chances are good that no readers of this article were invited to the ball, but the event was attended by Dale Mitchell and Cleta Deatherage among many others who the article described as being in the “in” crowd. Andy Coats, to be mentioned later, was present, as well. As for your and my absence of an invitation … oh, well … maybe next time or in some other life we too will have such an opportunity.
Back to topic. I couldn’t determine the reason for the branch opening delay — comptroller issues or something else — but Citizen’s branch bank at Citizens Plaza did not open until almost a year after the gala party described above. A November 22, 1984, article said that Citizens would formally open its new branch at Citizens Plaza on December 3, although the article also said that limited operations were already occurring there as of the article’s date. A December 9, 1984, Oklahoman ad by Citizens publicly announced the opening of the new branch office at Citizens Plaza.
By that time, Mitchell had finished his business with Fidelity — which is a story for another day, but, in a nutshell, during his time at Fidelity was acquired by and merged into BankOklahoma Corp. (Bank of Oklahoma) of Tulsa — and had returned as Citizens’ chief executive officer and chairman of the board. As part of his leaving Fidelity, he was given a $1 million promissory note which note would become important in two of the later criminal charges against him. Notwithstanding that a November 7, 1984, article already said that Mitchell was then Citizens’ chairman, and that his wife, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, was the bank’s general counsel and a vice president, a later November 22, 1984, Oklahoman article reported that Dale Mitchell had been re-elected chairman and chief executive of Citizens, that James Burgar, formerly with Fidelity, was named president, and that former president Timothy A. Baker had relinquished his presidency and chief executive positions to become vice chairman of the board of directors, all effective December 1. In the article, Mitchell announced that Citizens would formally open its Citizens Plaza (called Tower in the article) branch on December 3 although limited operations were already occurring there when the article was written.
As for Mitchell after his return to Citizens, Oklahoman articles — and there were several — mainly show his involvement in the dispute between Dean Krakel and others with several prominent members of the board of the National Cowboy Hall of Fame for control of the Cowboy Hall and the possibility that it might leave Oklahoma City. Mitchell was the Cowboy Hall’s board treasurer and Citizens had a substantial loan to the Hall. That’s quite a fascinating story all by itself but it won’t be further gotten into here.
As for banking, only four stories about Citizens appeared in the Oklahoman in 1985, plus Statements of Condition. Recalling what has been previously said about Mitchell’s interest in the Tulsa’s Bank of Commerce, a May 23 article described steps being proposed and taken to bolster the Bank of Commerce and other banks with a linkage which would potentially include Citzens. I’ll get to the other 1985 Oklahoman stories shortly.
Statements of Condition published in 1985’s Oklahomans were no longer paired with similar statements about Commercial Bank of Tulsa. Citizens’ 1985 published statements showed deposits, loans & reserves for loans, and total assets as follows:
|Report Date||Deposits||Loans & Reserves||Total Assets|
The December 31, 1985, Statement of Condition was the last to be filed by Citizens in the Oklahoman. A June 13, 1986, article reported that, “Citizens has not published its bank call (ed. note: statement of condition?) for the first quarter. Most Oklahoma City banks published theirs in April.” None were published during the remainder of 1986, either.
The second 1985 Oklahoman article appeared on December 4 and was evidence of internal discord within the Citizens organization. The article reported that, on November 18, two officers had resigned, Jan L. Miller, executive vice president for lending, and Jim D. Burgar, president of the bank. The article says that, “Burgar said he left because of disagreement over how the bank ought to be run.” Mitchell then assumed Burgar’s role.
The third 1985 Oklahoman story about Citizens appeared on December 17 and that article marked the end of Mitchell’s leadership roles in Citizens. The article reported that the directors of Citizens Bancshares Inc., which owned the bank, voted to approve an option agreement with Shawnee banker H.E. Gene Rainbolt to buy control of Citizens — later articles indicated that meant an option which Rainbolt could exercise within a 5-year period to buy 55% of Citizens but it was an option that Rainbolt never exercised — and that the directors elected Ray F. Bauer, Rainbolt’s choice, to be president and chief executive officer of Citizens. Mitchell was replaced as President although Mitchell would remain chairman of Citizens National Bancshares until the Federal Reserve Board would approve Rainbolt as chairman and chief executive. Bauer’s appointment as chief executive already had the approval of the regional director of the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, so this development must have started well before the December 17 article.
The last 1985 article, December 29,1985, was about what Dale Mitchell would do with himself upon his departure from Citizens. Read the article for more particulars, but a synopsis is that he would become a professional adviser in the following regards:
“I’m going to spend all my time trying to interpret to clients how to invest and how to sustain those investments,” he said. “I intend to concentrate on revitalizing businesses that are already here in Oklahoma, those with 25 workers who can grow and avoid going broke.”
Good luck with that — see the Days of Corruption section, below.
• Post-Mitchell Last Days. Mitchell was effectively gone from Citizens by December 16, per a December 17, 1985, article, and the new person in control seemed to be H.E. Gene Rainbolt. Rainbolt was a successful Shawnee banker who had created a consortium of banks within a holding company named United Community Corp. which involved banks in several Oklahoma cities, e.g., Shawnee, Guthrie, Konawa, McAlester, Sand Springs, Seminole and Stillwater. If he was able to make substantial changes at Citizens during his tenure as chair of Citizens Bancshares, chances were good that he would have exercised his purchase option for 55% of Citizens and would have added Citizens to his stable of banks. It is difficult to imagine that he would have become involved with Citizens’ fate for any other possibility.
His view of Citizens was different than Mitchell’s and was more akin to the original Citizens State Bank incorporators when C.R. Anthony and others formed the bank in 1948. But his view would not prevail — by May, it became evident that a majority of the board of Citizens Bancshares did not share Rainbolt’s aspirations for the bank.
A March 2, 1986, Oklahoman article anticipated federal approval and a March 20 article reported that federal approval of the Rainbolt development had been granted. The direction that Rainbolt wished to take Citizens was described in the March 2 article by Bauer who had been acting President for about two months:
He [Bauer] said Citizens is on a reducing regimen, changing its goal of becoming a $300 million commercial lending institution to a community bank of between $200 million and $225 million to serve smaller businesses and consumers. ¶ He said the Golden Dome at NW 23 and Classen comprises “our main bank, our main offices and the primary source of deposits and lending. ¶ Those people have been our customers and will continue to be,” he said. “Our goal is to re-emphasize a community banking philosophy. We intend to increase installment lending. It is prudent to take care of our core depositors and borrowers.”
Perhaps that would have happened had Rainbolt had greater control but, as it was, an August 8 article reported that Bauer, Rainbolt’s choice as bank president, had been replaced by the Citizens Bancshares board in May and that board members selected Wallace H. Emerson to serve as president instead. Although Rainbolt continued as board chairman after that board action in May, his role became passive and the August 8 article reported that Rainbolt resigned his chairmanship of Citizens Bancshares. Rainbolt’s reasons were reported in the article.
“We saw it as an opportunity, and the board saw it a different way,” he said. “We picked our person and our approach, and if that was not what they wanted to follow, that was sufficient to terminate our agreement.”
Earlier articles, in June, were less specific about those factual developments but those June articles evidenced that the bank’s attorney, Terry W. Tippens, had become the bank’s principal spokesman, he doubtless speaking on behalf of the board. In the June 13 article mentioned previously, it was reported that the Oklahoman had obtained the bank’s first quarter 1986 report filed with the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, principal regulator of U.S. banks, prepared during Bauer’s regime. Even though the submitted report had not been made publicly available, it was a “public record,” and that fact entitled the Oklahoman to obtain the information. The report was not a good one for citizens.
The article’s main headline read, in bold print, “Citizens Bank Net Worth Drops 68%,” and the secondary headline was, “Report Indicates Problems in Loan Portfolio.” Emerson, Bauer’s successor as bank president, would only say, “I have no comment,” to Kevin Laval, the Oklahoman’s reporter. Lawyer Tippens said that the figures were based on information prepared by Bauer’s staff and that they had been withdrawn for re-evaluation. The article also noted, however, that Ellen Stockdale, spokesperson for the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, “said such reports are public records that can be revised but not withdrawn.”
“Oh, come on, Terry,” I was thinking as I read this article — Tippens, a top-flight lawyer in this field, would have known better, and his remarks only represented a failed transparent attempt at window dressing, in this writer’s opinion.
The report reflected that during the first quarter Citizen’s net worth dropped from $12 million to $3.8 million and that assets had dropped to $179 million. The article said that federal regulations require that “a bank of Citizens’ assets * * * maintain net worth of $10.7 million.” If that’s so, that means that Citizens was under-capitalized at the end of March by $6.9 million.
The article also said,
Tippens also said a plan has been developed for increasing the bank’s net worth, although he would not discuss the proposal in detail.
“But, wait, there’s more” (ala Ron Popeil). The article goes on to say,
The Oklahoman obtained a [ed. note: another] report from the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, which regulates bank holding companies. Martha Conner, of the Fed’s Freedom of Information office, said the report was written by the FDIC and consists of data filed with the FDIC by the bank. ¶ The report shows problems in Citizens’ loan portfolio and, as a result, weakness in the ability to produce income. When a loan is lost, the income it would produce is also lost. ¶ The report shows that the bank acknowledged $7.6 millions of loans — most of them commercial lendings — as losses during the quarter. * * * With the net loss, equity capital — which was $5.9 million at the beginning of the period — fell to a negative $7.8 million.
This report was not a report by Citizens, it was a report by the FDIC, and neither Tippens nor his client Citizens Bancshares would have any control over withdrawing or revising that federal report.
These things, and other items mentioned in the full June 13 article, explain the reason for Terry Tippens’ fancy-dancing.
But the dance would not work. Although an Oklahoman article as late as August 12 indicated that Dallas-based MCorp might be considering acquiring Citizens Bank and probably as part of the new regime’s plan, it was too little too late. From the federal perspective, several things were possibly, and I think probably, seen as true and as probable givens:
- Federal authorities did not like what had occurred at Citizens during the several months before December 1985.
- As evidence of that hypothesis, by December 1985, Federal authorities had already pre-approved Bauer as president before he was appointed to that position — such kinds of things do not happen quickly at the federal level.
- Federal authorities liked Bauer’s proposed appointment and approved the proposed arrangement with Rainbolt.
- Both Rainbolt and Bauer had more modest visions of what Citizens’ goals would become.
- Bauer was gone from Citizens in May and Rainbolt was gone in August. By May, the board majority at Citizens Bancshares had assumed control.
- This new regime was perhaps more interested in Mitchell’s commercial model than Rainbolt’s consumer model (I’m just guessing).
- First quarter 1986 was a disaster for Citizens.
- Regardless of any hype from Tippens, nothing had happened after the first quarter to present a more promising Citizens to federal officials.
● Citizens Fails On August 14. Whether my above analysis of the situation is correct or not, Citizens National Bank & Trust Company of Oklahoma City was closed by federal regulators at 5:00 p.m. on August 14, 1986. A pair of Oklahoman articles on August 15 gives the detail — the main front page story and the chart showing failed Oklahoma banks on page 21. Citizens’ failure was the 3rd largest in state history (Penn Square Bank, Oklahoma City, July 5, 1982, $470 million deposits; First National, Oklahoma City, July 14, 1986, $1.5 billion deposits; Citizens on August 14, $158 million deposits). The page 21 chart shows that Tulsa’s Bank of Commerce in which Mitchell had a major interest was closed on May 8, 1986, with $126 million deposits, and the relevance of that bank closure will become evident in the next section.
The front page article contained a Bulletin that Liberty Bank, Oklahoma City, had purchased Citizens the better assets of Citizens from FDIC. Citizens’ Gold Dome and its branch at Citizens Plaza would reopen on Monday, August 18, but as branch banks of Liberty National Bank & Trust Co. of Oklahoma City and the once proud bank originally known as Citizens State Bank would be seen no more.
● Days of Corruption. I’m not sure that’s the best title for this section since I’m not interested in being judgmental — but, sadly, a rose by any other name is still a rose. The names mentioned in this section are associated with Dale E. Mitchell’s name in one way or another.
Dale E. Mitchell. Dale is one of the sons of L. Dale Mitchell, a former baseball great at the University of Oklahoma who became a major league baseball icon and for whom the L. Dale Mitchell Baseball Park at the University of Oklahoma is named. In this October 2010 picture, the son is in the background and the father is shown in the foreground in a Cleveland Indians baseball card. The son, too, played baseball at the University of Oklahoma, but the story here is not about baseball.
After Dale Mitchell’s 1983 divorce from his first wife, Mary Ellen Mitchell, Mitchell married Cleta Deatherage in March 1984. Deatherage was then a Norman up-and-commer in the Democratic party — she served eight years as member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives (1976-1984) and was seen by many as a beacon of progressiveness in Oklahoma and in the Democratic party, generally. She felt so strongly about the Democrat party that, as a premarital condition of her changing her last name to Mitchell upon marriage, she insisted that Dale switch his party affiliation to Democrat before their marriage, and he obliged. A March 9, 1984, Oklahoman article reported Deatherage as saying, “He wanted that [name change] and it wasn’t negotiable. It was important to him.” At their marriage, Dale was 41 and Cleta was 33 years of age. A few months earlier, both attended the gala black-tie invitation-only dinner-dance for the opening of Citizens Plaza as was reported in the Oklahoman on December 9, 1983. After their marriage, in November 1984 the Mitchells purchased a home at 6715 Avondale Drive in Nichols Hills, leaving their Norman residence. Oklahoman, November 7, 1984. According to the County Assessor’s records, on November 1, 1984, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell became the owner of the Avondale Drive property and she sold the property, valued around $1 million, for only $310,000 on May 1, 1987. Go figure.
This was her second marriage, as well. It has been reported that her first husband was gay, and it has been suggested that that fact may have influenced her metamorphosis from a liberal Democrat into an ultra-conservative Republican activist after she and Dale left Oklahoma, but I’m offering no opinion about that. After first moving to New York, they eventually settled in Washington, D.C., as will be discussed below. As has already been mentioned, after Mitchell left his Fidelity Bank duties and resumed his positions at Citizens Bank in November or December 1984, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell became General Council for and a vice president of Citizens National Bank & Trust Company.
Mitchell was eventually charged with bank fraud, in 1992, and one might think that just telling a bit about that trial and its outcome would be a simple thing to do — but, the problem is, that such an approach would leave out significant parts of the story which, before the end be told, has elements of a melodrama, a very interesting con-man (Bazarian, not Mitchell), an ex-wife and a bankruptcy thrown in.
I’m saying that a very engaging television soap opera could easily be crafted upon the Mitchell story unfolding here.
I’ll start with Mitchell’s ex-wife. As alluded to above, following a 19-year marriage, Mitchell and his first wife, Mary Ellen, were divorced in Oklahoma City on August 24, 1983. But, in July 1985, Mary Ellen filed a petition to vacate that decree which wasn’t the result of a trial but of a negotiated divorce agreement. The July 12, 1985, Oklahoman reported that Mary Ellen filed a petition to vacate that decree, alleging that Dale had omitted assets, “knowingly and with the intent to mislead” Mrs. Mitchell into entering into the agreed divorce settlement. Her lead attorney was Los Angeles attorney Marvin Mitchelson who came to fame during his representation of California actor Lee Marvin’s paramour in her claim against the actor for what has come to be called, “palimony.” Dale Mitchell’s attorney was Mayor Andy Coats. The Oklahoman does not contain a report of how the post-divorce litigation was resolved, but in Mr. Mitchell’s December 31, 1986, bankruptcy petition, one of the creditors he identified was Mary Ellen whom he identified as a $341,547 creditor.
I’ll get back to the bankruptcy shortly after moving fast forward to July 1988 and 1991 — and, yes, the bouncing ball is a bit hard to follow. The July 19, 1988, Oklahoman reported that Dale E. Mitchell and Timothy A. Baker had agreed to be banned for life from employment at federally insured banks. The article said,
Specifically, the [U.S.] comptroller [of the currency] said the two arranged loans that were concealed from the bank’s board and officers. It said the loans, which it described as unsafe and unsound, were intended to “further Mr. Mitchell’s financial interests in violations of banking law and their fiduciary responsibilities to the bank.” ¶ The comptroller said the loans resulted in $1 million of losses for Citizens, which was declared insolvent and closed August 14, 1986, and another $400,000 of losses for the bank’s holding company.
The referenced loans were (1) $1.2 million to by Citizens to Tulsa Commerce Bancshares which was used to augment capital at that bank in which Michell owned a substantial interest, as previously described; (2) $200,000 to a “Mitchell business associate for purchase of stock in a financial institution in which Mitchell had an interest,” (3) $150,000 to a Mitchell business associate to buy property in a matter in which Mitchell had a joint-venture interest; and $26,000 to a Mitchell business associate for the purchase of a Norman residence that Mitchell owned. The comptroller’s action was agreed to by both Mitchell and Baker, and although both were required to pay relatively small penalties ($10,000 and $5,000 respectively), the administrative action did not preclude criminal proceedings from being filed. Anyway, hold on to this paragraph and relate it to Mitchell’s Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceeding and criminal charges which will be described shortly.
Timothy A. Baker. On August 7, 1991, a federal grand jury indicted Timothy A. Baker, the sometime Citizens president but probably always Mitchell assistant while Mitchell was away at Fidelity Bank, and the charges were much the same as were described in the above paragraph. Nothing in the charges suggested that Baker gained any benefit other than being a good servant to Mitchell, and, as a guess, that may well have been the reason that Baker was acquitted in a jury trial, as reported by the December 25, 1991, Oklahoman. The article reported,
In closing argument on Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Borden told the jury that Mitchell directed Baker to make the loan and that Baker was being prosecuted for the false statements contained in the loan documents. Baker at the time had a choice either to obey the law or to obey Mitchell. ¶ He chose to be loyal to Mr. Mitchell,” Borden said.
Baker’s attorney, Irven Box, said in closing arguments that the government failed to tell “the whole story.” Box told jurors that Baker lost his family, his profession and came close to taking his own life over the incident. ¶ They (government) never told you why they didn’t bring Mr. Mitchell in here,” Box told the jurors Monday. “Are we going to guess he (Baker) conspired with Mr. Mitchell? … You don’t have the whole story. You don’t have the whole truth.”
The jury acquitted Baker of all charges. When his time came in the box, the result would not be the same for Mitchell.
Mitchell’s Bankruptcy. OK. Drop back in time to 1986. Mitchell filed his Chapter 13 (personal reorganization) bankruptcy proceeding on December 31, 1986 — Cleta Deatherage Mitchell was not a party to or directly involved in the matter. Without delving too far into what a Chapter 13 proceeding involves, this brief discussion is intended to make some sense out of the other items mentioned in this section (and with apologies to bankruptcy and/or other lawyers if I’m getting any of this oversimplification wrong):
- The general Chapter 13 idea is that a debtor will file a reorganization plan to pay the debt that he has incurred AND can be reasonably expected to pay over the duration of the reorganization plan which can be three to five years. If payments under the court approved plan be made, excess amounts of debt over plan provisions (i.e., original debt compared to debt scheduled to be paid within the duration of the plan) would be discharged.
- The debtor must file a complete disclosure of assets and liabilities. If such disclosure be shown not to have occurred, the proceeding might be dismissed.
In documents filed by Mitchell (see articles on January 1, 1987, and January 27, 1987), he said that he owed $341,547 to Mary Ellen — that probably represented her share of property division awards in the divorce litigation since child support and support alimony are not affected by a bankruptcy proceeding. He also listed $4 million of bank debts to Mercantile Texas Corp. in Dallas for lendings associated with Tulsa Commerce Bankshares (Commercial Bank), a $1.2 million debt on his and Cleta’s Nichols Hills home, $312,000 to Citizens as guarantor of a loan from Citizens to Cleta, as well as borrowings from nine other Oklahoma banks. Mitchell’s filings said that he had $2.8 million in assets and $12 million in liabilities, resulting in a negative $9.2 million in net worth. The January 27, 1987, Oklahoman said that Mitchell said he owed Charles J. Bazarian $1 million on a promissory note. Remember the name because it will come up again shortly.
- As to liabilities, either the debtor or creditor can file an “adversary proceeding” in bankruptcy court, either contesting or advocating that a particular claim should be discharged.
The June 6, 1987, Oklahoman reported that both Mitchell and Mary Ellen had filed such proceedings in the proceeding. The article reported that Mary Ellen had filed a $5.3 million claim involving real estate (probably related to property division awards in the divorce case), alimony, child support and attorney fees and costs arising from the divorce litigation and that their respective adversary proceedings were then pending.
- Claims of creditors must be filed by a time specified by the bankruptcy judge — otherwise, claims as might have been filed if timely made are lost.
The FDIC was particularly interested in filing a claim since Mitchell’s involvement with failed Oklahoma banks was significant — Citizens of Oklahoma City, Citizens Bank of Tulsa, Central Bank of Tulsa, Bank of Commerce of Tulsa, as well as Fidelity in Oklahoma City. A June 5,1987, article reported that FDIC had asked for more time to investigate such matters and whether it would object to discharge of Mitchell’s debt. An extension until August 31 was granted to FDIC.
Atkins [representing FDIC] told [bankruptcy judge Richard] Bohanon that the FDIC was investigating Mitchell’s conduct as an officer and director of Citizens National, First National Bank and Trust Co. in Oklahoma City and the former Fidelity Bank in Oklahoma City. Mitchell has been chief executive of all three institutions.
Filings in Mitchell’s bankruptcy case listed debts to Citizens National, Central Bank and Bank of Commerce. Mitchell was a stockholder of the holding companies of Citizens Bank and Bank of Commerce when those institutions failed.
All of the five banks except Fidelity, later named Bank of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, were declared insolvent and closed in 1986. Bank of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City, [ed. note: Fidelity Bank] effectively failed and was merged into Bank of Oklahoma, Tulsa, last year as a branch.
FDIC presented nothing further and the September 5 Oklahoman reported that the deadline had passed. The article restates that Mitchell’s ex-wife had filed a claim for $5.3 million, described above.
Charles J. Bazarian. However, another interesting claim was filed, this one by Charles J. Bazarian, mentioned above. The June 6, 1987 Oklahoman reported on Bazarian’s $7 million claim in Mitchell’s bankruptcy concerning the purchase of stock in Citizens holding company. At the time of the claim, Bazarian himself was appealing a criminal bank fraud conviction in Florida and was resisting an involuntary bankruptcy proceeding filed against him in Oklahoma City. Bazarian’s claim involves some twists and turns and is kind of hard to follow, but the gist seems to be this: Bazarian claimed that Mitchell had loans totaling $8.3 million to MBank of Dallas and that Bazarian had guaranteed those debts under a repurchase agreement that was part of a stock sale between Bazarian and Mitchell. Under that December 31, 1984, agreement, a Bazarian trust purchased 135,147 of the 236,957 shares of voting trust stock in Citizens National Bancshares for an unstated price. Bazarian alleged that he had paid MBank $762,000 on his MBank guarantee agreement before the stock sale transaction with Mitchell and another $457,000 on the debt and that his total claim against Mitchell was a bit more than $7 million. The agreement with Mitchell also included an option which required that Mitchell repurchase the Citizens stock at Bazarian’s request.
Does the above make sense to you? Read the above article and perhaps you’ll come up with something different but, for me, it’s very hard to follow. But since Bazarian has already been mentioned in two occasions in this article, and will be again before we’re done, this is as good a place as any to step aside from the Mitchell bankruptcy and just talk about Bazarian himself.
Mystery Man. Just who was this “mystery man,” as he was called by an April 14, 1985, Oklahoman article. The bold headline read, “Mystery Man Credits Street Smarts for Financial Success,” and includes a sub-headline, “Bazarian Remembers Being Poor, Vows, ‘Never Again.'” The article by Glen Bayless says,
The article reports that he was 45-years old when the article was written and that the Danbury, Connecticut, native had been in Oklahoma City for 18 years, meaning that he was 27-years old when he moved here. The article continues:
The article explains the frame of reference — after his move to Oklahoma City, Bazarian was indicted on mail fraud involving the interstate sales of medical insurance in the late 1950s but his cooperation with federal officials resulted in that firm’s founder being sentenced to 10 years in prison. For his cooperation, Bazarian was only sentenced to 4-years probation but he lost his insurance license and took bankruptcy. The article continued:
Connection With Mitchell. The article goes on to briefly discuss his extensive involvement with HUD projects and describes some of his financial institution investments, including his interests and ventures with Citizens National and Local Federal Savings & Loan in Oklahoma City and stock ownership in Commercial Bank, and others, in Tulsa. Importantly, the article goes on to note,
Bazarian’s principal business organization was called CB Financial, and he brought Sig Kohen into that organization in 1983, the article says. In February, Kohen was elected to the board of directors of Tulsa’s Bank of Commerce holding company, which has been previously described as one of Mitchell’s principal banks and investments.
Florida Conviction. The February 5, 1987, Oklahoman reported that Bazarian was on trial in Orlando, Florida, for bank fraud, associated with federal charges that in 1985 Bazarian and four others conspired to takeover the Florida Central Bank which had been closed in April 1986 after the bank lost $7.2 million. Supporters of Bazarian’s character in that litigation included boxing champion Muhammad Ali, astronaut Tom Stafford, and former OU quarterback Steve Davis. Nonetheless, Bazarian was found guilty on 3 of 4 charges according to a February 13, 1987, article. Bazarian received a 2-year sentence and a $100,000 fine but remained free on bond pending appeal.
Oklahoma Bankruptcy. As mentioned already, in May 1987 Bazarian and his company CB Financial were forced into involuntary bankruptcy. Therein, he and his wife listed their $2 million + home at 7428 Country Club Drive in Nichols Hills as exempt property under Oklahoma’s homestead laws. A September 1, 1988, Oklahoman article said that the proceeding’s trustee had file a complaint alleging that the property should not be exempt since it was obtained using $400,000 that was obtained through a fraudulent transfer of funds. A September 16, 1988, article reported that the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. (FSLIC) filed a $3.6 million adversary petition in the pending Bazarian Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding as to the failed Investors Saving and Loan Association in El Reno, FSLIC claiming that Bazarian and his company had made false statements to obtain $7 million in loans from that institution.
A month later, bankruptcy judge Bohanon entered a temporary restraining order preventing Bazarian or his company from transferring any assets, the bankruptcy trustee having alleged that assets were being transferred outside the trustee Thomas J. Kenan’s reach:
Goes To Jail and Additional Charges. Bazarian’s appeal from the Florida convictions failed and in August 1989 he reported to prison in Ft. Worth to begin serving his two-year sentence.
While there, Bazarian received additional federal charges related to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD, savings and loan schemes, and wire fraud charges. The September 19, 1989, Oklahoman reported on the charges which were filed in Oklahoma and California federal courts, and a September 21 article reported his plea of guilty to the charges. A news story in the Oklahoman on October 8, rather after the fact, reported on how Bazarian had cajoled, intimated, and, for sure, embarrassed HUD in its dealings with what might be Oklahoma’s premier con-man. Here are some snippets from that lengthy article by Ed Kelley of the paper’s Washington bureau:
Hmmm … Ed Kelley came across sounding rather superior and holier-than-thou in the article … but, wait … the failure “to check” would include the Oklahoman’s prior reporting, as well, would it not, but Kelley didn’t spread the “failure to check” charge to his own organization. Regardless, the full article presents a fascinating picture of the man.
A February 14, 1990, article reported that Bazarian was sentenced to five years on some of the charges and a lesser amount on others. In his bankruptcy proceeding, a March 28 article reported that he agreed to $61 million in restitution, and he was effectively barred from any significant relationship with any federally insured bank or savings and loan. A July 15, 1993, Oklahoman article said that he was released on probation in January 1992, after serving 3½ years. During his release, he was one of the government’s key witnesses in bank fraud charges against Dale Mitchell, to be discussed below.
Bazarian’s Last Con. The last and perhaps most interesting chapter in the Bazarian saga begins in 1993, after the December 1992 Mitchell trial, described after this section. It seems that Bazarian didn’t stay clean during his probationary release as was reported in a July 15, 1993, Oklahoman article which said that the government was seeking to revoke his probation on account of misdeeds since his January 1992 release. Bazarian, who had helped the FBI in investigations in Florida, Louisiana, Colorado, California, and Oklahoma, was alleged to have done new bad things after his release from prison. In the revocation proceedings, his lawyer was the highly respected Robert A. Manchester. In the article, Manchester said,
The article said that Bazarian had been spending much more money than his $38,811.81 income he reported as earning since his release, one such expenditure of $48,850 and six others greater than $5,000 and that he was allegedly guilty of offenses that I’ll not further describe here.
His revocation hearing was set before U.S. District Judge David Russell on August 31, 1993. See Oklahoman, August 26. On August 31, Bazarian’s probation was revoked … but … he was granted a 24-hour leave to attend his daughter’s Oklahoma City wedding on Saturday, September 4, at St. Eugene’s Catholic Church. Problem was, Bazarian attended the wedding but then he “went on the lamb.”
Then budding Oklahoman reporter Steve Lackmeyer reported on September 6 that Bazarian had gone “AWOL.” The article said,
Lackmeyer’s September 7 article indicated that the fugitive might not be an easy find.
The manhunt continued. A November 15, 1993, article said that the search had become worldwide, as far away as Argentina, and described Bazarian as “the consummate con man.” After a three-month run, a November 27 article reported that he had been captured in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The article said that Bazarian didn’t give a good review of the movie because he didn’t think it was realistic. Oklahoman articles during this time did not use more flattering images of Bazarian than mug shots like the one shown above. While in custody in San Juan, he may have attempted suicide, but views differed on whether the attempt was serious or not.
Back in Oklahoma City, Manchester was appointed to represent him, this time being paid by the government, and, on July 7, 1994, although his health was poor, he received a 15-year sentence for the crimes he had earlier plead guilty to, in addition to the 2 years remaining on his revoked sentence. Federal Judge David Russell was reported as saying,
Bazarian’s unsuccessful appeal of the sentence argued that he had effectively received a life sentence given his health condition, and that statement proved to be prophetic. The September 11, 1999, Oklahoman reported that Bazarian had recently died in prison at the age of 60.
So, who and what was Charles Bazarian? Was he merely a crook, a swindler, a master con-man, as Oklahoman articles came to label him, or was he more than that? Researching though all of this, I am inclined to add adjectives like “moxie” and “colorful,” and I would say that his fascinating story has won him a place in Oklahoma City history. From the beginning, this city has enjoyed if not relished in and aggrandized its earliest “crooks,” like our first provisional mayor William L. Couch, illegal sooner that he was and even if that fact is ignored in common parlance to make him seem not to be a crook, even though he was. See Cops & Robbers, Part 1.
Criminal Charges Against Mitchell. Oklahoman articles never referred to Dale Mitchell as a “crook” or the like. He was more gentile, so to speak, than Bazarian was, and he had friends in higher places. But, if Bazarian was a crook, so was Mitchell.
This part of the story actually begins in Colorado, before any criminal charges were filed against Mitchell. The July 31,1992, Oklahoman reported that Mitchell was identified in a federal charge in Denver against Stanley G. Miles II. Miles was the principal owner of Columbine Valley Bank & Trust located in Littleton, Colorado, and he was charged with accepting a 1985 bribe from Mitchell — the quid pro quo being that a delinquent $2.3 million loan owed by Columbine to Citizens Bank would be extended if Mitchell received a $141,000 loan in return. A later article (December 9, below) said that Miles was also bargaining for a $750,000 letter of credit in his negotiations with Mitchell. The July 31 article said that both Mitchell and Cleta had moved to New York. Mitchell’s lawyer, by-then former mayor Andy Coats, responded to the allegation in an August 1 article by saying that he was “absolutely certain there wasn’t any kind of bribe involved.” The article reviewed Baker’s earlier charge upon which he was earlier acquitted (see above), and added,
Coats said Mitchell has been under investigation since the late 1980s. The former Oklahoma county district attorney [and former city mayor] said he was unsure whether federal prosecutors planned to indict his client. ¶”Who knows?” Coats asked. “I don’t think there is any reason why they should.”
Miles plead guilty to the Mitchell-bribery charge and another charge not related to Mitchell. According to the September 5, 1992, Oklahoman, part of Miles’ plea agreement was that he would help authorities in other criminal investigations, including an investigation of Mitchell. The article said,
In return for Miles’ guilty plea to two charges, federal prosecutors in Oklahoma City and in Denver agreed not to prosecute him on other charges, according to a plea agreement. * * * “As far as I know, Dale was never involved in any direct loans to Miles, so this comes as a surprise to us,” Coats said. “I think it’s unfounded, and I think it can be shown later to be an outrageous representation of the truth.”
On November 7 Miles was sentenced to 2 1/2 years and ordered to pay $315,000 in restitution.
It is also noted here that before Mitchell’s Oklahoma City trial began in December 1992, Dale Mitchell’s brother, Dudley “Bo” Mitchell, and Mike Matthews, the president of Columbine in 1985, also entered guilty pleas in federal bank fraud charges pending against them in Colorado, both of which were relevant to Oklahoma City charges against Dale Mitchell. These facts weren’t mentioned by Oklahoman reports until during the Oklahoman’s December 1992 reporting of Dale Mitchell’s trial in Oklahoma City.
Charge Particulars. Before Miles’ sentencing, he had already begun his cooperation and in October testified in an Oklahoma City federal grand jury investigation of Mitchell. An indictment was returned by the grand jury on October 8, 1992, and on October 26, the indictment was unsealed and charges were filed against Mitchell, all allegedly occurring in 1984 and 1985. Although an article by Ed Godfrey in the October 27 Oklahoman discussed the charges, he did not do so with clarity, and, frankly, I found some parts of the article almost impossible to follow. For that reason, I’ve assembled a list of the charges filed against Mitchell, first, taken from the the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals opinion which was involved with 5 of the 8 charges and clearly identified them, and, second, from Godfrey’s Oklahoman reports which were more casually written but which were nonetheless particular enough to get the drift of the other three charges. In the list of charges below, Counts 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8 were enumerated in the appellate court opinion. For the three, I’m using Count 1?, Count 2?, and Count 5? to identify charges which were not enumerated in the 10th Circuit opinion but which were generally mentioned in Godfrey’s articles but without enumeration. Interestingly, the charges against Mitchell which stemmed from Miles’ testimony would either result in dismissal or acquittal in the Oklahoma proceedings.
|Count 1?||Bribe of Miles. Mitchell was charged with demanding and receiving a $100,000 bribe from a Colorado real estate developer, Stanley G. Miles II, in exchange for him receiving a $750,000 letter of credit from Citizens. Judge Lee West found that there was no evidence supporting the connection between Miles and Dale Mitchell regarding this matter — instead, it involved Dale Mitchell’s brother, Dudley, who was not called as a witness in the Oklahoma City trial proceedings. Following trial but before the matter was submitted to the jury, Judge West dismissed this charge based upon insufficient evidence. If there was a connection between the brothers, one will never know — during the trial, Dudley Mitchell was never called to testify although he was listed as a government witness.|
|Count 2?||Coercive Loan to Mitchell. Mitchell was charged with demanding a $140,000 personal loan from the Littleton, Colorado, Columbine bank in exchange for his influence in renewing that bank’s loans to Citizens and Bank of Commerce. See the discussion of Miles’ Colorado proceedings above. The jury acquitted Mitchell on this charge.|
|Count 3||MAGI Transaction, Part 1. Count 3 charged that Mitchell conspired with others to use his influence to require Management Assistance Group, Inc. (MAGI), to borrow $1.2 million from Citizens National and use the funds to purchase stock in Tulsa Bankshares, as a condition of First Citizens’ funding a $1million loan previously requested by MAGI. The jury found Mitchell guilty of this charge and the conviction was affirmed on appeal.|
|Count 4||MAGI Transaction, Part 2. Count 4 charged that Mitchell unlawfully demanded and caused to be demanded a thing of value for Tulsa Bankshares by demanding, as a condition of funding the requested $1 million loan, that MAGI borrow another $1.2 million from Citizens National and use the funds to purchase Tulsa Bankshares stock. The “thing of value” was the improvement in the capital position of Tulsa Bankshares by MAGI’s purchase of its stock. The jury found Mitchell guilty of this charge and the conviction was affirmed on appeal.|
|Count 5?||Personal Home Matter. Mitchell was charged with misapplying $26,000 used in the purchase by another of his Norman home. The jury acquitted Mitchell on this charge.|
|Count 6||Tolex Energies, Inc., Loan by Citizens. The count charged that Mitchell “misapplied and caused to be misapplied” funds of the bank which, under the statute involved, required that an accused either make a loan or influence the making in a significant way. Mitchell owned all stock of Cuatro Explorations, Inc., which owned oil and gas properties, and he had persuaded the owner of Tolex to switch its banking connections from another bank to Citizens National, and Tolex had been borrowing from Citizens National. Tolex inquired about a loan from Citizens of $1.3 million to pay off a $1 million note at another bank and Mitchell referred the matter to David Durrett, a Citizens loan officer. While the Tolex loan application was under consideration by the loan committee Mitchell was negotiating a business relationship with Tolex. On July 31 Mitchell and Tolex entered into an agreement pursuant to which Mitchell sold to Tolex oil and gas properties owned by Cuatro, for which Mitchell received a promissory note for $220,000 and 20% of the common stock of Cuatro. He was also given an option to become a Tolex member of the board of directors. Hence, Mitchell would have had a personal interest in the $1.3 million loan by Citizens, if made. The loan committee did not immediately approve the Tolex loan but considered it on three separate occasions, the loan being approved on the third, on July 29, and the loan was made on August 2. Mitchell did not disclose the interest he was negotiating with Tolex until after the loan had been made. The jury found Mitchell guilty of this charge but it was reversed on appeal.|
|Count 7||Note Deferral From First City Bank. This count charged that Mitchell knowingly made and caused to be made a material false statement to First City Bank for the purpose of influencing that bank to defer collecting payment of a loan it made to him in the amount of $810,000, which loan was secured by an assignment of a $1,387,103 promissory note to Mitchell from Fidelity Bank. In fact, Mitchell’s promissory note to First City described the collateral as “Assignment of Net Proceeds and Promissory Note.” The note provided that it would become immediately due and payable if the collateral became unsatisfactory or insufficient either in character or value. In Mitchell’s deferral request to First City Bank, the government alleged that Mitchell falsely represented to First City Bank that the promissory note payable to him from Fidelity Bank was still available to the bank as security, when he knew that the money due to him under that note had already been paid in full. In fact, Mitchell had made two other loans, $215,000 from the Bank of Commerce and $250,000 from the First Oklahoma Bank, and used the same Fidelity Bank note as security. In February 1985, Fidelity paid Mitchell $1,000,000 in full settlement of its note. In March, First City asked Mitchell for a current financial statement, and Mitchell gave a statement dated March 31, 1985 that showed the First City debt of $810,000 as a note payable but a note to the statement said: “The note is secured by an assignment of net proceeds agreement and promissory note.” Once First City Bank discovered that the Fidelity note had been paid it obtained new collateral from Mitchell and did not press for collection, and eventually the First City note was paid. These facts do not change the circumstances we have described that the jury could find to be a false representation. The jury found Mitchell guilty of this charge and the conviction was affirmed on appeal.|
|Count 8||Loan From First Oklahoma Bank. As noted above, Mitchell obtained a $250,000 loan from First Oklahoma Bank, using the same collateral referenced above, the note payable to Mitchell from Fidelity Bank. The Court of Appeals opinion said, “A loan officer from First Oklahoma testified that Mitchell gave the Fidelity note as collateral for a $250,000 loan and orally stated to him that the note already was pledged as collateral securing a loan from Bank of Commerce of $335,000 but did not disclose that it also had been pledged as collateral for a loan from First City Bank.” The opinion adds, “Mitchell says that his statement was not material because, first, when First Oklahoma learned (from bank examiners) that it was third in line on the security it called on Mitchell for additional collateral which he supplied, and, second, he eventually paid the First Oklahoma note. These arguments are frivolous.” The jury found Mitchell guilty of this charge and the conviction was affirmed on appeal.|
According to an article by Ed Godfrey in the October 27 Oklahoman, Mitchell plead innocent to all eight (8) charges and was released on bond. The article said that Mitchell had moved to Washington, D.C., and was unemployed. See Godfrey’s article for his description of the charges. Frankly, I found the October 27 article very difficult to follow and that is the reason that I assembled the table of charges, above, to gain some degree of clarity.
Mitchell Trial. Mitchell’s December 1992 trial spanned December 7 until the jury returned a verdict on December 14, and Ed Godfrey gave daily blow-by-blow reports in the Oklahoman. A December 10 article said that Mitchell’s wife, Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, sat with Dale during the trial proceedings. Another family member, Dudley “Bo” Mitchell, Dale Mitchell’s brother, was mentioned for the first time, beginning with the second day of trial, but he was never called as a witness during Dale’s trial.
- Day 1: Monday, December 7. Trial began before U.S. District Judge Lee R. West with the lawyers’ opening statements. Mitchell’s attorney, Coats, told the jury that his client committed no crimes and that he didn’t even know about some of the financial transactions alleged in the eight charges facing him. As to the charge that Mitchell was involved with the Management Assistance Group, Inc., the California based company transactions, assistant U.S. attorney Lee Borden told the jury that the California business met with Mitchell and Charles Bazarian and “were given no option but to borrow the money for the stock purchase if they were to get a $1 million loan (from Citizens) they wanted.”Coats responded, telling the jury that Bazarian “was the real mover and shaker in the deal” and that officials of the California company never met with Mitchell. The December 8 article which described the first day of trial also said that three witnesses were called to testify but the article only identified one of them, Donald Hogoboom, a former board member of the Littleton, Colorado, Columbine bank, who plead guilty to misapplication of bank funds and improper entries in bank records in the Denver federal criminal litigation already mentioned. The article said that Hogoboom testified that Mitchell asked the Columbine bank for a $140,000, said that he felt obligated “to help Dale in any way we could” to get an extension on his bank’s loan with Citizens, but he also testified that Mitchell never demanded the money and that there was no agreement between him and Mitchell.
- Day 2: Tuesday, December 8. Three witnesses were identified in Godfrey’s December 9 article — Bruce Rozet, Stanley G. Miles II, and Mike Matthews. Testimony on Day 2 contains the first mention of Dudley “Bo” Mitchell, Dale Mitchell’s brother, in any Oklahoman article which described either the Colorado or Oklahoma federal court proceedings.
About the California company, MAGI, Godfrey’s article described the testimony of Bruce Rozet, MAGI’s owner, as follows:
Bruce Rozet, owner of MAGI, said he came to Oklahoma City on March 29, 1985, to close the deal on the company’s $1 million loan. Rozet testified he met with Mitchell, Oklahoma City financier Charles Bazarian and another Citizens official, Timothy Baker, to discuss the loan. ¶ Rozet testified he was informed at that meeting of the Tulsa bank’s need for capital and was told if MAGI would borrow the additional $1.2 million to buy preferred stock in the bank, the stock would be sold to someone else before the loan became due. ¶ Rozet testified he had no desire to buy the stock. When asked by assistant U.S. attorney Lee Borden why he would sign the $1.2 million loan agreement, Rozert replied, “because I thought I wouldn’t get the $1 million loan.”
The article also said that Rozet testified MAGI couldn’t get the loan elsewhere and that, “We said if that’s what we have to do, we will do it.”
Defense co-counsel Wes Fredenburg cross-examined the witness. Although a party’s lawyers may not offer testimony in their client’s litigation, he nonetheless claimed that Mitchell was in Dallas on March 29 and that Rozet’s testimony was “concocted” to protect himself from liability with the FDIC. Rozet denied the allegation.
As to Littleton, Colorado, Columbine bank transactions, two witnesses testified. Stanley G. Miles II said that he needed a letter of credit for the purchase of a Denver hotel and asked Dudley “Bo” Mitchell, Dale Mitchell’s brother, for financial help. The article said that Dudley had also plead guilty in the Denver federal court proceedings to a charge of aiding and abetting bank fraud, but Dale’s brother would not be called as a witness in the Oklahoma City proceedings. As to Miles, the article said,
Miles said he thought the $100,000 fee “was real expensive, but I needed the letter of credit.” Miles said the $100,000 was disbursed through a bank in Littleton, Colo, and didn’t know who received it. ¶ Miles also testified he never had an agreement with Dale Mitchell for him to use his influence in arranging for the letter of credit.
Dale Mitchell is accused in another count of receiving a $140,000 loan from Columbine Valley Bank and Trust for his influence in renewing a loan to Columbine from Citizens and the Tulsa Bank of Commerce. Miles was majority stockholder in Columbine. ¶ Mike Matthews, the president of Columbine in 1985, testified Dale Mitchell called him one day and “asked where his money was”and wanted money wired to him that day. Matthews said he was unaware at the time of Dale Mitchell wanting a $140,000 loan. ¶ Matthews said he refused to make the loan but later did so at Miles’ insistence. Matthews said Mitchell later refused to pay it back. ¶ Miles testified Dudley Mitchell pressured him to make the loan. At the time, renewal of a $2 million loan to Columbine, held by banks controlled by Dale Mitchell, was “being dragged out,” Miles testified. ¶ Miles testified he felt if he didn’t loan $140,000 to Dale Mitchell, all of Columbine’s loans in the Oklahoma banks would be in jeopardy. Miles had about $8 million in loans in Oklahoma. ¶ Miles admitted never talking to Dale Mitchell about the loans.
- Day 3: Wednesday, December 9. This would be Charles Bazarian’s day to testify, and Godfrey’s December 10 article described no other witness than him. His testimony related to the California company, MAGI, as well as his own relationship with Mitchell and the Oklahoma banks, Citizens in Oklahoma City and Bank of Commerce in Tulsa.
As to the California company, MAGI, the article said,
Convicted bank swindler Charles Bazarian testified Wednesday that former Citizens head Dale E. Mitchell attended a 1985 meeting where a California company was required to borrow an additional $1.2 million for a stock purchase [in Bank of Commerce] in order to receive a $1 million loan.
* * *
Bazarian, who also owned stock in Tulsa Bancshares, said he and Mitchell met with MAGI owner Bruce Rozet in 1985 and informed him they needed help raising capital for the Tulsa bank. He testified MAGI didn’t want to buy stock in the Tulsa bank, but had to in order to get the $1 million it wanted. ¶ Mitchell’s attorney, Wes Fredenburg, tried to discredit Bazarian during cross-examination, pointing out Bazarian’s numerous bank fraud convictions and claiming that he is the target of another criminal investigation into money laundering.
* * *
* * * Bazarian also testified he has been paid $3,500 by the FBI for information and expenses and helped with investigations in California, Florida, Louisiana, Colorado and Oklahoma. ¶ Fredenburg also hammered at the inconsistency between Bazarian’s testimony and that of Rozet, who testified on Tuesday. Bazarian and Rozet testified differently about where the meeting took place and the people in attendance. ¶ Bazarian said he couldn’t recall the date of the meeting, but insisted that Mitchell was there, despite Fredenburg’s claim that he wasn’t. Fredenburg accused Bazarian and Rozet of making up the story. ¶ Bazarian was the owner of CB Financial Corp. and testified MAGI was the company’s biggest customer. CB Financial Corp. couldn’t loan the $1 million to MAGI because the company was up to its lending limits, Bazarian said.
He testified that he and Mitchell were good friends and that CB Financial had borrowed $8 million to $10 million from Citizens and the Tulsa Bank of Commerce. Bazarian said he bought stock in Tulsa Bancshares at Mitchell’s request and that he also purchased a $1 million Edmond farm from Mitchell.
The article doesn’t say so, but with Bazarian’s testimony the government was apparently close to resting its case.
- Day 4: Thursday, December 10. As readers must certainly know, in a criminal proceeding an accused cannot be compelled to testify against himself under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although Godfrey’s December 11 article does not say so, Mitchell must surely have waived that right since the article mainly describes Mitchell’s testimony on Day 4 of the trial.
But, first, the government apparently closed its case with the testimony of Mary Andrews as related to the California (MAGI) alleged but disputed meeting between Mitchell, Rozet, and Bazarian. The article said,
Mary Andrews, an employee of Citizens at the time [of the alleged meeting between Mitchell, Bazarian, and Rozet], testified Thursday morning that she and Mitchell were in Dallas that day but that Mitchell had flown back early. ¶ Mitchell testified Thursday afternoon that he “wouldn’t dispute Mary” on the fact that he returned to Oklahoma City early that day but denied ever meeting with Bazarian and Rozet.
The article then describes, even if briefly, what it says were more than four hours of testimony by Mitchell.
In that testimony, Mitchell denied all charges, and the fairly brief article can certainly not be said to contain everything that he had to say. But, among other things, the article said,
* * * Mitchell on Thursday denied being at any such meeting [between Rozet and Bazarian]. He said that he was told by Bazarian that Management Assistance [MAGI] wanted to borrow the money. ¶ Mitchell claimed that he had lost control of his stock in the Tulsa bank to Bazarian but under cross-examination admitted the stock was still in his name. ¶ Mitchell’s defense attorneys had told government witnesses during the trial that Mitchell was in Dallas on March 29, 1985.
But see the testimony of Mary Andrews and Mitchell’s response, probably during his own cross-examination, described above.
The article continues.
Mitchell is also accused of receiving $100,000 for his influence in arranging a $750,000 letter of credit from the Tulsa Bank of Commerce for Stanley G. Miles, a Denver real estate developer. Mitchell testified he didn’t even know about the letter of credit until he was told he was going to be indicted for it. The money came from his brother, Dudley “Bo” Mitchell, who owed him the money, Mitchell said. ¶ Federal prosecutors allege Dudley Mitchell got the money from Miles.
Mitchell is accused in another count of receiving a $140,000 loan from Columbine Valley Bank and Trust in Littleton,Colo., for his influence in renewing Citizens’ and the Tulsa Bank of Commerce’s participation in a loan to Columbine. * * * Mitchell testified he never discussed the loan with Miles and did nothing to affect the renewal. * * *
Another count charges Mitchell with misapplying $26,000 from Citizens. Prosecutors allege the money was used in the purchase of the Norman home of Mitchell and his wife, former Oklahoma legislator Cleta Deatherage Mitchell. ¶ Prosecutors claim Mitchell advised a Citizens loan officer that the buyer, former state legislator Jim Fried, wanted the money to invest in the stock market. Mitchell testified he never told the loan officer the purpose of the loan was to buy stock.
With that, Day 4 of the trial ended, and the article noted that cross-examination of Mitchell would continue the next day.
- Day 5: Friday, December 11. If there was further cross-examination on December 11, Godfrey’s December 12 article certainly did not describe it. Instead, it appears that both the government and Mitchell rested their cases, that motions were then heard by federal judge Lee R. West, and upon his rulings and instructions to the jury (the article does not say that, but that’s how legal proceedings work), the case was submitted to the jury which began its deliberations. Frankly, the reporting leaves a lot to be desired for accuracy purposes, but one reviewing history takes what one can get.
The December 12 headline simply read, Mitchell Bribe Charge Tossed; 7 Counts Mulled. A “tossing” of a charge would not occur had the parties not already have rested, so it appears that no further cross-examination of Mitchell occurred on Friday. If it did, the article does not mention it.
The charge which Judge West “tossed” was the charge that Mitchell received a $100,000 bribe from a Colorado real estate developer, Miles, as a condition for Miles to receive a $750,000 letter of credit from Citizens. This is the transaction which involved Dale Mitchell’s brother, Dudley. Godfrey’s Oklahoman article said,
In dismissing the charge, West said there was no direct evidence Dale Mitchell had any influence on approving the letter of credit, but there was evidence of an existing debt between Mitchell and his brother. ¶ The judge also said he found it significant that the government had subpoenaed Dudley Mitchell in the case but did not call him to testify.
Following closing lawyer arguments, the remaining 7 counts were submitted to the jury. The article reported that the government’s closing argument made by assistant U.S. attorney Vicki Zemp Behenna included these remarks:
During closing arguments Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Vicki Zemp Behanna said Mitchell during the early and mid-1980s had built his wealth “on a house of cards.” Mitchell needed money desperately and kept constantly borrowing from one bank to pay another, Behenna claimed. ¶ Mitchell had a home in Nichols Hills, a vacation home in Phoenix and a $400,000 art collection, Behenna said. ¶ “He had a very nice style of living and he wanted to keep it that way,” Behenna told the jury. “That is why he did the things alleged in the indictment.”
Mitchell’s attorney, Andy Coats, told the jury in his closing argument the government had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any crime had been committed and that prosecutors “just wanted to throw a lot of mud on the wall.”
Otherwise, the December 12 article really didn’t add all that much to the story, except to say that, “Mitchell had been working as a stockbroker in Washington, D.C., prior to his indictment. The article noted that the jury deliberated for two hours before recessing for the weekend.
- Day 6: Monday, December 14. Godfrey’s article in the December 15 Oklahoman bore the front-page headline, Jury Finds Ex-Banker Guilty on 5 Counts. Of the seven counts remaining after Judge West dismissed one charge on Friday, the jury found Mitchell guilty on five of the seven remaining. It acquitted him on two counts: (1) of misapplying $26,000used in the purchase of his Norman home; and (2) receiving a $140,000 loan from the Colorado Columbine bank in exchange for his influence in renewing that bank’s loans to Citizens and Bank of Commerce.
As to the California MAGI matter, “Mitchell was found guilty of demanding that a California corporation borrow $1.2 million and use the money to buy stock in a Tulsa bank [Bank of Commerce] he owned in order for the company to receive a $1 million loan it had requested from Citizens,” the article said. Mitchell was also convicted on failing to disclosing to Citizens’ loan officers that he had a financial interest in Tolex Energies which had applied to borrow $1.3 million from Citizens. And, the jury convicted Mitchell on charges that he had obtained two personal loans totaling more than $1 million based upon his false statements.
Trial Aftermath. Mitchell remained free on bond pending Judge West’s review of the verdict and Mitchell’s sentencing. Godfrey reported on February 18, 1993, that Judge West had reviewed Andy Coat’s motions for acquittal based on insufficiency of evidence and on February 17 he ruled that sufficient evidence had been presented to the jury which, if they believed it, would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the crimes were committed by Mitchell. “The court does not weigh conflicting evidence or assess witness credibility, the judge wrote.”
From this and the jury’s decision, Mitchell would later appeal. But, before that, he would have to be sentenced by Judge West, and Godfrey reported that decision in the April 15, 1993, Oklahoman. Dale E. Mitchell was sentence to five years but the sentence was suspended, and Mitchell was ordered to pay restitution of $3,039,740, and was ordered to perform 208 hours of community service during each year of his probation. It was very evidently true that Godfrey got it right when he reported:
At the sentencing, the judge told Mitchell that he was fortunate “to be appearing before someone who does not happen to believe that incarceration is required or serves any purpose in every case, and particularly this case.” ¶ West said Mitchell also had “increased good fortune” that an alternative sentence could be imposed. ¶ The federal sentencing guidelines, which establish a range of imprisonment that federal judges must follow, did not apply in Mitchell’s case. The crimes of which Mitchell was convicted occurred before the enactment of the guidelines, allowing West full discretion at sentencing. ¶ Based on the amount of money involved in Mitchell’s case, the sentencing guidelines likely would have recommended a prison sentence of at least two year. Federal prosecutors had asked that Mitchell be sentenced to prison. ¶ West said that Mitchell’s sentence “will at least spare us the additional expense of incarceration, which in my view will serve no useful purpose.
The article reflects, somewhat, that Judge West had some concern about “the last-minute revelations by the government regarding Charles Bazarian, a key government witness,” and the article said that,
The judge said that it was unfortunate Mitchell allowed himself to become involved with such people as Bazarian and others, “who demonstrated little or no respect for the law. ¶ Whether by reason of ambition or greed or both, you participated in activities which the jury has found to be illegal,” the judge told Mitchell. “Unfortunately for you this has resulted not only in the loss of public funds, but the complete destruction of your promising career.” ¶ The judge told Mitchell he would likely “suffer guilt and other psychological pain for the rest of your life” for having caused his family such trauma.”
Maybe so, but as will be seen at the end of this section, Mitchell seems to be in pretty good shape these days, due no doubt in large part by the later success of his wife, Cleta, in the legal circles of Washington, D.C., and, particularly, within the Republican party.
But, I digress. Up in Colorado, a June 25, 1993, Oklahoman article reported that Stanley G. Miles II’s sentence had been reduced from 2 ½ years to 7 ½ months, due to his cooperation in the Oklahoma City Mitchell trial. Notwithstanding that Mitchell was acquitted in Oklahoma City of the charges which involved Miles’ Colorado guilty pleas and convictions, the Colorado federal judge ordered him to be released immediately based on prison time already served, based upon federal prosecutors’ recommendations. The article reported that Oklahoma City prosecutor Vicki Zemp Behenna wrote that, “Miles’ testimony in the trial of Mitchell ‘was truthful and personally unflattering. I found Stan Miles to be most helpful and cooperative during the entire pretrial and trial process (of Mitchell).”
Mitchell’s Appeal — Affirmance, Reversal, and Remand. As for Mitchell, he appealed all prior decisions, the convictions and the sentence, to the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in Denver, a three-judge panel consisting of federal judges Paul J. Kelly, Robert H. McWilliams, Jr., and John C. Godbold who wrote the court’s opinion.
A November 13, 1993, Oklahoman article reported on oral arguments. Andy Coats argued that Mitchell was not financially able to pay the $3 million restitution order, as well as arguing that the jury’s decisions should be overturned. Coats told the court that Mitchell’s liabilities exceeded his assets by $4 million and that, in addition to the negative net worth the federal government had a lien on his property for $795,000 in unpaid income taxes. The article also noted that most of the restitution was to be to FDIC and to MAGI, the California company. As to the convictions, Coats’ argued that the government’s evidence was insufficient. Naturally enough, US Assistant Attorney William Lee Borden Jr. took the contrary view but did concede to a $470,000 reduction of the restitution amount. As well, it was mentioned in the article that FDIC had written a letter which prosecutors presented during Mitchell’s sentencing proceedings, the article stating:
“The FDIC, FSLIC or institutions which later came under receivership by these agencies filed proofs of loss totaling in excess of $18,703,841.92,” the letter stated. “The FDIC eventually lost in excess of this amount considering the associated legal fees, related litigation costs and general receivership expenses.”
After having taken the case under advisement and reviewing the parties’ briefs, the court filed its written opinion deciding the appellate issues on January 28, 1994. Click here for the full opinion. A January 29, 1994, Oklahoman article reported on the appellate court’s decision, but I’m relying on an actual review of the actual court opinion here.
In a nutshell (and in addition to the clarification the opinion gives to particular identification of five of the eight charges against Mitchell, not particularly well done in earlier Oklahoman articles), the court affirmed four convictions under Counts 3 and 4, both involving the California MAGI allegations, as well as Counts 7 and 8, both involving personal loans Mitchell had with other banks, the court finding that the evidence was sufficient to support the respective convictions.
But, as to Count 6, the court reversed the conviction. As previously discussed, this charge related to a loan sought by Tolex Energies, Inc., from Citizens, arising from Mitchell’s failure to make his interest in Tolex clear to Citizens loan officers until after the Tolex loan had been consummated. In this regard, the court’s opinion identified a trial witness, David Durrett, not mentioned in the Oklahoman reports. The opinion noted that when Tolex inquired about obtaining a $1.3 million loan, Mitchell referred the matter to Mr. Durrett, a Citizens loan officer, and the opinion contained some of Durrett’s relevant testimony. Although Citizens did loan Tolex $1 million, no testimony was presented during the trial that Mitchell had influenced that decision, other than possibly by inference and/or innuendo (my terms, not the court’s). Part of the opinion reads,
The indictment charged that Mitchell “misapplied and caused to be misapplied” funds of the bank. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 656 requires that an accused either make a loan or influence the making in a significant way. There must be a causal connection between the defendant’s actions as officer and the making of the loan. [Citations omitted]. The evidence of a causal connection between Mitchell and approval of the loan was not sufficient that a reasonable jury could find Mitchell guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
The court noted that the government had changed its position from trial to appellate circumstances:
In the district court the government contended that Mitchell violated Sec. 656 by failing to discharge an affirmative duty to disclose his relationship with Tolex when he knew that Tolex had a loan application pending. On appeal it has shifted its position and, recognizing the necessity for a causal relationship, suggests that Durrett “sponsored” the loan for Mitchell’s benefit and appeared before the loan committee “on Mitchell’s behalf.” There is not substantial evidence supporting those contentions. The motion for judgment of acquittal on Count 6 should have been granted.
But, Mitchell’s biggest victory in the appeal was his allegation that the $3,039,740 restitution order was too great and that the amount should be reduced. Excerpts from the court’s opinion read:
After a sentencing hearing the district court ordered Mitchell to pay restitution of $3,039,740, in amounts to be determined by the probation office. 3
Incredibly, at least to me, footnote 3 reads, “Mitchell represents to us that the probation office has ordered payments of $50.00 per month.” If I’ve done my math correctly, that would mean that Mitchell would have had 1,215.9 months, which is 101.33 years, to accomplish the restitution.
The appellate court opinion continues:
The district court made no specific finding that Mitchell is able to pay any restitution. Arguably such a finding is implicit in its order that he pay $3,037,740. But we do not know what underlying fact findings would support a finding of ability to pay. The PSI [ed note: pre-sentence investigation] showed Mitchell as currently unemployed. It listed assets of $8,000 plus, liabilities of $4,156,358, a negative net worth of $4,148,346, monthly income (from spouse’s salary) of $4,180, and negative monthly cash flow of $2,615. The PSI concluded that Mitchell does not have the ability to pay restitution. The court stated that it had considered the PSI, but it did not refer to the recommendation that Mitchell could not pay anything.
* * *
Additionally, the prosecution presented to the court a letter addressed to the judge from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. It outlined that agency’s analysis of losses it said it had incurred as a consequence of Mitchell’s wrongs. Counsel for Mitchell strongly objected to the letter on the ground that he had received it only the day before the hearing and that it embraced transactions not a part of the case. The letter requested a substantial prison sentence and restitution of not less than $2,705,681.88. It said that Mitchell defrauded Citizens Bank of several million dollars, obtained money under false pretenses, and used loan proceeds for purposes other than stated to obtain the loan. Mitchell was not convicted of any such offenses. The letter listed 20 failed banks that FDIC said Mitchell was “involved with” or “associated with” as director, officer, influencing shareholder, borrower, or some combination of these, having total assets of more than $11,000,000,000. Which, if any, of these banks suffered any loss as a result of Mitchell’s “association” or “involvement” was not stated. Delivery of the letter to defense counsel only one day before the hearing was not explained. Defense counsel expressed his outrage at the letter’s presentation, the delay in furnishing him a copy, and the contents of the letter. The district judge announced that he had received the letter and reviewed it and would consider it for whatever the court deemed it was worth and appropriate. We do not know what, if any, reliance the judge gave to the letter.
Finally, in this court the government concedes that the amount of restitution directed must be modified to eliminate $370,852.22, an amount relating to a victim not connected to any charge on which Mitchell was convicted and $101,000 in attorney fees not directly related to Mitchell’s criminal conduct. Also, our reversal of Count 6 would, by itself, require the court to revisit the restitution order.
Whether Mitchell has the ability to pay any restitution is sharply contested. It is not necessary for us to recite the facts pro and con that came out at trial and bear on that issue since the entire matter of restitution must be readdressed.
After the 10th Circuit Court’s opinion, Judge Lee West was required to reconsider his restitution order, and he did. A March 16, 1994, Oklahoman article by Ed Godfrey reported that Mitchell’s restitution was cut to $1.3 million from its original $3,039,740 amount as the result of a government/Mitchell agreement. The article also noted some degree of Mitchell resilience. It said,
In the agreement on $1.3 million in restitution, the government and Mitchell’s attorneys said Mitchell was employed for five years in the temporary personnel field and that he reported income of $177,493 between June 1986 and April 1988 from Express Temporary Service. ¶ Dividend Personnel paid Mitchell $72,000 in 1990 and loaned Mitchell $78,000, according to the agreement. ¶ Mitchell and others created Dividend Personnel from nothing, and at the end of 1990 it was sold for $750,000, the agreement states, showing that Mitchell’s involvement in businesses can earn him substantial amounts of money.
Mitchell Aftermath. That’s the end of the Dale E. Mitchell part of the Citizens story, except for this sort-of-postscript note. An August 1, 1992, Oklahoman article reported that the Mitchells, Cleta and Dale, had established residence in New York but by an October 27, 1992, article, the Mitchells resided in Washington, D.C., and that appears to have remained true since that time.
As for Cleta Deatherage Mitchell, the once-progressive Oklahoma Democrat who insisted as a premarital condition of her taking Mitchell as her last name that Dale switch his political party to Democrat, it seems that the tables have turned. She is now more commonly known as Cleta Mitchell and has become what many articles call a “powerful” Washington lawyer and a flag-waver of the conservative elements in the Republican Party. She has testified before Congress on at least two occasions I noticed while Googling her name. At the time of this writing (April 6, 2012), she serves as Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s general counsel. Other of her organizations are shown here. The Oklahoman has at least twice carried political columns written by conservative George Will which cite who cite her with approving content. In an April 28, 2011, column, he mentioned her testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee on a matter of campaign finance and said that she was “a campaign law specialist and president of the Republican National Lawyers Association.” In a March 1, 2012, column, he referred to her as “Washington’s pre-eminent campaign lawyer.”
It’s more difficult to find contemporary information about Dale, though. In this exception, the focus of the October 15, 2010, Washington City Paper article (a Washington, D.C., weekly) was on his baseball-star father, E. Dale Mitchell, but toward the bottom the article did note,
Dale E. will talk, though. He’s so proud of his father’s accomplishments as a ballplayer and businessman — the elder Mitchell began a long run as a Martin Marietta executive shortly after the 1956 Series—that he’ll talk about everything Dad did, including that infamous strikeout. He says he’s often asked to do just that when he introduces himself at business and social functions (he’s married to Cleta Mitchell, a big Oakland A’s fan and one of this town’s rainmakingest GOP lawyers, now all over the news for representing Tea Party darlings Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle).
“I’ll go out to the golf course, and I’ll notice a guy’s watching me,” he says. “And about the third hole he’ll work up the courage and say, ‘You know, there used to be a ballplayer with that name…’ It’s just amazing to me: My dad’s been retired for 54 years and dead for about 24. But baseball people remember!”
Apparently, for the Mitchells in 2012, life is good — elbow-rubbing with the rich and famous once again but this time in a different city and with an even more prestigious group of notables. But, what the heck — it’s all just part of the history of Oklahoma City, the good, the bad, and the ugly. A history buff enjoys reading it all.
● Post-Citizens Banking Aftermath. As discussed in Days of Masked Darkness & Failure, above, upon Citizens’ closure on Thursday, August 14, 1986, Liberty National Bank and Trust Co. of Oklahoma City acquired its better assets and liabilities and reopened on Monday, August 18, as a Liberty branch bank, complete with new signage. Doing so, Liberty promptly fired 67 of 130 Citizens employees and went on about the business of being Liberty Bank. Citizens’ branch at Citizens Plaza was retained by Liberty for the time being. The photo shown here is from the September 9, 2001, Oklahoman.
Liberty itself was no sure thing, however. In January 1984, Liberty National Corp. of Oklahoma City merged with First Tulsa Bancorporation, owner of First National Bank of Tulsa, and the banks’ holding company was called Banks of Mid-America. It went through its own doldrums and that topic will be developed in Part 3, the “top slice” of this 1967 photo chain of articles.
The Gold Dome’s next name was Bank One. Beginning in December 1996 and ending in June 1967, negotiations led to Liberty’s acquisition by Banc One Corp. of Columbus, Ohio (with a “c” in “Banc”) holding company of Bank One (with the “k”) thus drawing to a close its Oklahoma ownership, and, of course, that included the Gold Dome as one of Liberty’s branch banks.
As an aside, a June 3, 1997, Oklahoman article explained that under federal regulations only a chartered bank could use the word, “bank” — hence, a bank’s holding company commonly used the word, “banc.”
Under Bank One’s ownership, the Liberty name and logo continued to be used until December 1997, after which Bank One took the name of all Liberty acquisitions, including the dome.
In January 2004, a merger was announced between Bank One and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (headquartered in New York although its consumer banking base was located in Chicago), and a June 9 article said that the merger was nearing completion. Following the merger that summer, Bank One logos continued to appear on Bank One banks for a time, but, an April 21, 2005, Oklahoman article shows that name changes to Chase Bank were then underway.
However, since the issues concerning the Gold Dome and non-bank ownership of the dome were finally resolved in 2003 before the Chase merger, Bank One, not Chase, was the the last banking institution to call the Gold Dome home, more particularly described in the next and last section of this article.
● The Gold Dome’s Salvation. But what would become of the Gold Dome, itself? As good a place as any for this part of the story to begin is August 9, 1998, since, at that time, a movement formally began that the city would begin taking steps to protect its assets along the NW 23rd Street corridor, as it was called. In an August 11 article by Jack Money, the Oklahoman reported as follows:
Oklahoma City is working to add a new zoning area along the NW 23 corridor between Interstate 235 and Villa Avenue. ¶ The area, when implemented, will require property owners to participate in a special design review process if they want to demolish or modify properties fronting the street in that areas. * * * ¶ It would potentially stop the demolition of various properties, including a landmark gold-domed banking building at the corner of NW 23 and Classen Boulevard.
That building’s demise was rumored in the past couple of weeks, alarming members of the Uptown 23 Association, a group working to improve the NW 23 corridor. ¶ Association members say they want to preserve the street’s unique commercial nature, which features older art-deco face buildings with commercial space fronting the busy street. ¶ Group members also want to save historic buildings like the one with the gold dome and others, like the Tower Theater building in the 400 block of NW 23.
“If that (gold dome) building wasn’t there and there was just another brown box at that corner, when you went buy you might think you were in Amarillo,” said Michael D. Smith, vice president of the Uptown 23 Association. ¶ “There is no reverence of respect for things that are unique — there is a lack of that,” said Smith. “That comes with age, education, and experience.”
The general project wasn’t a done deal as of Money’s August 10, 1998, article. On November 3, 1998, the City Council adopted a zoning ordinance which established a North Downtown Urban Revitalization District along the NW 23rd corridor and parts of the Gatewood neighborhood and required that exterior renovations or new construction of business properties within the district be subject to review by its urban design review board, identical to similar boards or committees established for Bricktown and other core areas of the city. A January 29, 1999, article by Money said that landscaping funding for the overall project had been found.
So, what was the rumor, when Money’s August 10, 1998, article was written? A July 24, 2001, article by Gregory Potts said that preservation groups had met with Bank One officials 2-3 years earlier in 1999 but were then rebuffed by Bank One, it saying that its intention was to destroy the building. So, it was not unexpected that the rumor became reality by the time that a July 17, 2001, article by Potts was written, when it was reported that Bank One proposed to demolish the Gold Dome and replace it with a smaller branch bank and a Walgreen’s pharmacy on the property. The proposal needed to be submitted to the Urban Design Commission, however.
The plan calls for the dome to be replaced with a smaller bank and a Walgreen’s. [Dennis] Box [attorney for the applicant] said the deal with Walgreen’s is contingent on approval of the application to destroy the building. ¶ Box estimated the dome would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to renovate.
“From an economic standpoint, the heating and cooling costs are inefficient,” he said. “The building has asbestos and major structural issues that need to be resolved, and, as a result, the economics don’t work.”
* * *
John Bozallis, a retired Oklahoma City architect, worked for the firm that designed the dome. Bozallis said the building was only the third geodesic dome in the world and prompted an article in the London Times. The building’s design was based on a patented design from the famed engineer and architect Buckminster Fuller.
* * *
Trent Margrif, executive director of Preservation Oklahoma, said he believes the building is of national historical significance. ¶ “There are plenty of domes on the American landscape now, but not many from th 1950s like this one,” he said. ¶ Margrif said he is afraid Oklahoma is developing a reputation for failing to take care of its historic structures.
The article also noted that opposition to the demolition might be futile, as was the case with the downtown YMCA and Belle Isle power plant on the north side of the old Classen Circle.
Stan Carroll, a board member of the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said he is pessimistic that the building can be saved. ¶ “If Belle Isle and the YMCA are any indication, I think it’s hopeless,” Carroll said. ¶ The Belle Isle power plant was demolished to make way for a strip mall, and the bomb-damaged YMCA building is being destroyed to make way for a parking lot. Some considered both buildings local landmarks.
If Carroll’s pessimism would become fact, the Gold Dome was domed. However, for almost two years, from July 2001 through April 2003 the resolution remained in doubt. A July 19, 2001, Oklahoman article by Potts reported that Bank One said that it would consider alternatives to destroying the structure. After more than 30 appeared at the hearing before the July 18 meeting of the Urban Design Commission to protest the dome’s destruction, Bank One asked for and was granted a month’s continuance of the pending matter. That article said:
Catherine Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the state Historic engineer Office, said the agency earlier in the day announced its support for the building’s candidacy to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It also reported that Bank One’s president, Bill Scheihing, said that it would cost at least $1.7 million to accomplish repairs and upgrades to the dome. Before the continuance was granted, the city planning department advocated denial of the demolition request. One witness at the hearing, Daniel Carey, director of the National Register of Historic Places, testified as follows:
* * * [Carey] said the building marked a dramatic engineering breakthrough. * * * ¶ What Frank Lloyd Wright was to Prairie Style architecture, Buckminster Fuller was to the dome,” Carey said. ¶ If the city decides to allow the building to be demolished, “then Oklahoma City has learned nothing from its past mistakes, and it will continue to distinguish itself as a city that cares little about history and architecture,” Carey said.
Protests & Rallies. From July 2001 through the matter’s final resolution in late March 2003, protests surrounding the destruction of the dome seemed to expand exponentially in the city. Shown here is Joseph Mills and his dog, they being amongst the 30 protesting at the dome on July 23. The article quotes Mills as saying, “I just kind of assumed a structure like this would always be there, just due to its architectural significance.” The article also notes,
In 1999, the Oklahoma City Historic Preservation and Landmark Commission contacted Bank One to discuss nominating the building for city landmark status. Bank One officials declined, stating their intention then to destroy the structure.
* * *
“When this war is over, all we’ll have left is an empty Eckerd or an empty Walgreen’s,” said Nicole Altobello, president of the Paseo neighborhood. ¶ Hers is one of several nearby neighborhoods that have opposed the plan.
Randy Floyd, also an architect, said she would be willing to fight through legal and other means. ¶ “At this point in time, we don’t want to get nasty,” she said. “We want to start to raise awareness in Oklahoma City and also with Bank One and with Walgreen’s, but we’re going to get nastier eventually if they don’t change their minds.” ¶ Floyd said that saving the building could be in the economic self-interest of Bank One and Walgreen’s.
A July 29, 2001, Oklahoman article noted that protests had quickly grown. The article said that the property at the southwest corner of the intersection was also available for the Walgreen’s pharmacy and that a full block was offered to Walgreen’s at that corner of NW 23rd & Classen but that so far Walgreen’s had shown no interest in that location.
The opposition wasn’t only led by individuals and organizations who had a limited focus on historical preservation. Recall that Rainbow Records was then located at the northwest corner of NW 23rd and Classen. For many years a billboard had sat on top of that structure and still does today. At the time, Sonic Corporation owned those billboard rights and the August 10, 2001, Oklahoman said that the owners of Sonic restaurant franchises in the Oklahoma City area had decided to support the movement to save the dome — and they temporarily donated, without charge, rights to use the billboard to Citizens for the Gold Dome. See the August 15 Oklahoman for more about Sonic’s commitment to saving the dome. The new sign is shown here. At least one similar billboard would later appear along the Northwest Highway.
Protests were not limited to NW 23rd & Classen. Here, in a September 10 Oklahoman pictorial, Nancy Nagel and others are shown in front of Bank One downtown.
Other public events, like the July 27, 2002, “Atomic Dance-O-Rama: A Mid-Century Meltdown Party” held at the Buick Building at 504 N. Broadway, was described in a July 9, 2002, Oklahoman article. Admission was $20, and its sponsors were Sonic, Party Galaxy, Leit Motif, VZD’s, and Rand and Jeannette Elliot.
Summing up, quite a formidable array of public and private organizations, architects, and just plain citizens joined in opposing Bank One’s plan to demolish the Gold Dome. Resolution of the matter took a rather extensive amount of time, about 20-21 months, between July 2001 and March 2003.
Bank One Response. Although preservationist requests had been dismissed out of hand by Bank One in 1999, it was perhaps taken aback at the initial hearing before the Design Review Committee on July 18, 2001. Even before the hearing, Bank One’s attorney, Dennis Box, a July 17 article said that he was unaware of opposition to the demolition plan and that no opponents had contacted him. See Oklahoman, July 17, 2001. At least by the July 18 initial hearing before the Urban Design Commission, he knew. The July 19 Oklahoman reported that the meeting was packed and that “Only a few found chairs.” It said that “more than 30 protesters” opined at that meeting that the building was architecturally significant, and, on its own initiative, Bank One through its president Bill Scheihing requested a month’s continuance to consider alternatives to the dome’s destruction. The article said that his request was granted, together with the appointment of a committee “to help advise Bank One on the matter.” The article also said,
After the meeting, Scheihing said he had not changed his mind, but wanted to learn more about other options that might be available. ¶ “I would not say that I’ve had a change of mind,” he said. “I think we have some real issues and we heard a lot of issues from the community, and I think what we heard was worthy of us sitting down and spending 30 days to talk about it.”
One or more meetings occurred with the preservation committee, and an August 2 Oklahoman article said that Bank One had agreed to try to find a buyer who would pay about $1.2 million for the property by the end of September. The article quotes Scheihing as saying that, “It’s a change of direction we were going.” Lisa Chronister, an Oklahoma City architect and spokesperson of Citizens for the Golden Dome, said,
“This is a positive step toward Bank One demonstrating its commitments to the urban character of Oklahoma City and a gracious response to the recent outpouring of community support for the dome,” the group said in a statement.
The article also notes that Bank One was not agreeable to applying for the dome to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It also noted that additional rallies would continue to be held.
The group will hold a third demonstration at the site Monday, as well as a larger demonstration Aug. 11. Chronister said the group anticipates 1,000 people to attend. They will march up Classen Boulevard from Memorial Park [NW 36th and Classen] and Classen Boulevard to the bank. ¶ “We would love to turn the August 11 rally into a celebration rally,” she said. “It’s either going to be a protest or a celebration, depending on what happens.” * * * ¶ At Scheihing’s request, the Oklahoma City Urban Design Commission deferred its decision on the demolition request. Scheihing said the issue will not appear on the commission’s agenda as long as the building is on the market.
The Urban Design Commission voted on August 15 to defer its pending decision until October 17.
The problem was, at the time, only one entity stepped up to make an offer for the property and that possibility did not pan out. The offer was by “Blue Stuff,” a Bethany company which was known for its nationwide infomercials marketing a pain-relieving ointment, and a September 27, 2001, article evidenced several problems associated with the possibility. An October 13 article said that the matter was again continued at the commission’s October meeting, Bank One requesting additional time to negotiate with Blue Stuff. But, an October 31 article indicated that the negotiations with Blue Stuff had not proceeded smoothly. The article said,
It looks like Bank One’s “Gold Dome” branch will lose its best chance at being saved from destruction by week’s end. ¶ Jack McClung, owner of Blue Stuff, the company that made an offer on the building, said his company had set a deadline for Bank One to accept the offer. McClung also said he thinks the bank has been uncooperative in negotiations. ¶ “It appears as if Bank One really doesn’t want to sell the dome,” he said.
McClung said the company’s final offer for the building is $1 million. Bank One’s lowest counteroffer was $1.1 million. Blue Stuff has given the bank until Friday to accept its offer. Blue Stuff also wants to accept a nearby parking lot from Bank One for $50,000. ¶ In addition, McClung said the deal depends on a third party volunteering to make repairs to the building, including caulking the leaky roof. Blue Stuff spokesman Dale Epperson said an engineering inspection of the building revealed that the leak repairs would cost $250,000. ¶ Unless someone or some organization comes forward with money for repairs, we’re out, ” McClung said.
Given those remarks, it’s hard to conclude that Blue Stuff didn’t add to the difficulties in reaching an agreement with Bank One.
In any event, the proposed deal with Blue Stuff failed, as was reported in the November 3 Oklahoman. My read of that article and from what was said above is that Bank One had negotiated in good faith, perhaps better than Blue Stuff had. Regardless of interpretation, the Blue Stuff deal was no longer on the table. What would happen next?
Following failure to reach a deal with Blue Stuff, a November 17 article said that Bank One requested another continuance before the Urban Design Commission. The article gave no reason for the request, but my guess is that Bank One was making an estimate of the situation before deciding its next step. The continuance was granted. A December 13 article said that Bank One agreed to yet another continuance, postponing the hearing until January 2002, while Bank One and Citizens for the Golden Dome continued their discussions. The article said that Bank One was open to the possibility of disassembling the dome and donating it to a civic group which could move it to another location.
Then, at its January 16, 2002, meeting at which Bank One’s demolition request was set for hearing, the Urban Design Commission on its own motion continued Bank One’s request until a special meeting of the commission on January 31. At that meeting, Bank One’s request was denied by the commission by a vote of 5-0. The February 1 Oklahoman headline read, “Gold Dome supporters win round in design panel.” The article said,
Commission member Richard Dowell questioned Bank One officials when they argued the cost of refurbishing the building would make the project not feasible. ¶ Dowell said by the bank’s own figures, it would cost about $2.2 million to put the bank in “relatively pristine” condition for reuse, while it would cost more than $3 million to demolish it and build new structures for the branch and the [Walgreens] drug store. ¶ “I am frankly extremely puzzled by the applicant’s figures,” he said.
The article also said that Bank One had not yet decided whether to appeal the matter to the Oklahoma City Board of Adjustment. But a February 6 Oklahoman article indicated that the bank was prepared “to go all the way” in pursuit of its plan to demolish the dome. The article said that the bank’s lawyer, Dennis Box, said that an appeal would be filed with the Board of Adjustment and, if necessary, an appeal would be filed in district court — ” ‘We’ll take it all the way,’ Box said.” The article also said that preservationists expressed similar intentions.
The Oklahoman Position. As for its part in the process, a lead but unsigned editorial in the February 8 Oklahoman gave the public the newspaper’s point of view. At the time, Edward L. Gaylord was the chairman and publisher of OPUBCO and Patrick B. McGuigan was Editor of the editorial page so, presumably, the editorial was written by one of the two of them and with the approval of the other. The lengthy editorial read, in part:
We have sympathy for both sides in this issue, but Bank One has the better argument. * * * Both sides have vowed to use all legal channels available to win the debate. The city’s Urban Design Commission has already rejected Bank One’s application to demolish the dome. Next step is the Board of Adjustment, followed by district court. ¶ The court couldn’t force the bank to use the dome for a certain purpose; it could only keep it from demolishing the structure. If that happens, we fear the property would eventually become like so many other beloved buildings in the past — most particularly the Skirvin Hotel — still standing but eternally empty.
* * *
The dome does not meet its needs and, as legal owner of the property, Bank One has a right to pursue other options for the land. The preservationists are smarting over the recent loss of the old downtown YMCA building to the wrecking ball. But unlike the golden dome, that building was heavily damaged by the Murrah Building bombing. ¶ Opponents of the Y’s demolition also took it to court but ran out of money. Those seeking to keep the dome will have to raise enough money for a protracted legal fight. Perhaps instead they should be raising money to buy the old building. ¶ Easier said than done, of course.
* * *
* * * Either economics or nostalgia will triumph in this dispute unless a happy medium can be found. For the preservationists, it may be time to put up or shut up.
[Ed note: emphasis supplied.]
In hindsight, we know that the Skirvin was saved and brilliantly so and, today, is the city’s finest hotel. We know that the YMCA did indeed receive damage but none that impacted upon its structural integrity but, nonetheless, received the Board of Adjustment’s approval for demolition.
Take what you will from the Gaylord editorial, but if you’re like me and are quite pleased that the Skirvin did not meet the wrecking ball but instead serves as the most excellent Skirvin Hilton Hotel, the finest hotel in our city, take note that the Skirvin’s revival and restoration would not evidently have happened had the Gaylords had their way in the management of city affairs. The Skirvin was acquired by the city in 2001 with the hope of finding a way to save the building from destruction, and, of course, that did happen.
Likewise, the editorial gives little if any sympathy to failed efforts to preserve the city’s 1952 YMCA building at the northeast corner of 5th and Robinson, it being a prime example of one of a handful of International Style buildings remaining in the United States and the only such building in Oklahoma City. The city had been offered the donation of this building but the city declined and it was sold to a local investor who planned to demolish the building and make a street level parking lot in its stead. Although the YMCA was not structurally damaged by the Murrah Bombing and was completely available to restoration, the city allowed the demolition of this building in favor a street level parking lot, that occurring in 2001.
Using the Gaylord approach based upon its/their own words, the Skirvin would have been quite rightly demolished by the wrecking ball and the YMCA properly met that same fate.
Bank One’s appeal from the Urban Design Commission’s decision was scheduled for hearing before the Board of Adjustment on April 4. Two of the five board members recused themselves and after hearing the matter for over two hours, the remaining three board members continued the hearing until April 18 with a request to both sides to provide more detailed information on the economic feasibility of refurbishing the dome. However, according to an April 19 Oklahoman article, another board member, board chairman David Criswell, said he had learned that he might also have the appearance of a conflict of interest since he and his financial business had been represented by attorney Victor Albert who was also representing the Friends of the Gold Dome and Oklahoma Preservation, Inc.. Even though Bank One lawyers said they had no problem with Criswell participating in the decision, the hearing was again continued, apparently for Criswell to determine whether he would recuse, but, later, he did not do so.
But, before the next scheduled meeting, on May 2, a new development occurred. The May 2 Oklahoman reported that an offer to purchase the building had been submitted by optometrist Irene Lam and Bank One requested a two-week delay to consider the offer. Lam’s “letter of intent” was that the building be purchased for $1.1 million and that the building become an office, retail, and Asian community center. Bank One’s request was granted and the hearing was continued until May 16. A May 18 article reported that an actual purchase contract, as opposed to a “letter of intent,” had been delivered by Bank One to Dr. Lam and her husband.
But, as is said, the devil is in the detail. Although Bank One was open to the proposal to save the dome, it continued to press its hearing before the Board of Adjustment to at least be allowed to construct a small branch bank on the property. A June 7 article reported that the fate of the dome “remained a mystery” and that on June 6,
Attorneys, planners and members of Oklahoma City’s board of adjustment engaged Thursday in a procedural taffy pull over the fate of the golden dome before one board member left, leaving the body without a quorum and apparently delaying a decision yet again. ¶ “I’m not sure I understand what just happened,” said Steven J. Wacker, senior vice president for Bank One, owner of the golden dome that preservationists say is a landmark. “It’s pretty frustrating.”
Bank One hoped the board on Thursday would give it permission at least to proceed with plans to build a smaller branch bank adjacent to the dome while negotiations continued with a potential buyer for the familiar building.
At the next meeting, on June 19, the Board of Adjustment granted Bank One approval permission to construct a small branch bank next to the dome, conditioned upon a sale of the dome to a third party. See Oklahoman, June 20, 2002. On July 25, the Oklahoman reported that a contract had been agreed to by Bank One and Lam’s group, Gold Dome LLC, but that some outstanding issues remained, parking being one. The article also said that preservationists “remained cautious” It quoted Lisa Chronister, spokesperson for the preservationist group, as saying,
Until title is transferred, the building’s fate remains uncertain, she said. Besides, she said, “just because it transfers ownership doesn’t mean it’s saved. We don’t care who owns it. We care about what’s done with it.”
By the time of the last article, the dome had been listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation of one of the 11 most-endangered structures in the nation.The parking issue was resolved by October, when Bank One agreed to build its branch south of the done at NW 22nd and Western, thereby giving Lam’s group the full block. See Oklahoman, October 2. Finally, the April 3, 2003, Oklahoman reported that the contract had been executed and that title to the dome block had been transferred to Gold Dome LLC, thus ending the controversy with Bank One — destruction of the Gold Dome had been averted and preservationists had won the day.
Restoration. Remaining, however, were cures to the leaky roof, heating and air conditioning, and other issues that Bank One presented in its demolition request. The $1.1 million that Lam’s group paid for the property didn’t cure any of such matters. The April 3 article simply said that, “Lam said she plans to apply for grant money.” Asbestos removal was also a restoration problem and expense. A note in the July 13, Oklahoman by Steve Lackmeyer said that the federal Brownfields program might help pay for that by a $366,000 grant and that a forgivable loan of $734,000 might be available through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Such requests filter through city government and are requested by municipalities, and the brief article said the matter was on the city council’s July 15, 2003, agenda. At right, Tom Waken inspects the space immediately above the dome’s external cover — credit the February 7, 2003, Oklahoman.
Although the July 16 Oklahoman reported city council approval was given on July 15, it is not clear from the article whether the approval merely had to do with a stand-alone Brownfields federal grant application as opposed to the larger FHA forgivable loan mentioned above. Whichever, ward 4 council member Brent Rinehart cast the lone dissenting vote. The article also noted that Lam was applying for placement of the dome on the National List of Historic Places and that the same would qualify the property for restoration tax credits. A legal notice authored by the City Planning Department was published in the August 5 Oklahoman which, among many other things, said,
NOTICE OF PUBLIC DISCLOSURE AND PUBLIC HEARING BEFORE THE OKLAHOMA CITY COUNCIL TO CONSIDER AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSOLIDATED PLAN FOURTH ACTION YEAR * * *
Consideration and possible recommendation to amend the Consolidated Plan to include a Section 108 Loan Guarantee for the Gold Dome Building in the amount of $734,000. ¶ On April 25, 2003, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published Notice of Funding Availability for the Brownfields Economic Development initiative (BEDI). BEDI grants must be coupled with a companion Section 108 Loan. The Section 108 Loan program requires the City to pledge its future CDBG entitlement as security for the loan.
One project has been identified as an eligible and viable project for the BEDI application — the Bank One Building (Gold Dome) located at 1112 Northwest 23rd Street. The project has been reviewed and recommended by the Empowerment Zone Brownfields and Executive Committees. * * *
The lengthy notice says much more and that the matter would be presented to the City Council on August 26, 2003. Consequently, whatever the City Council did on July 15 clearly did not end the matter. Although a pair of August 27 articles by Steve Lackmeyer reported on the council’s August 26 proceedings, no mention was made of this particular item and until the March 30, 2004, City Council meeting, I was unable to locate any other relevant article on the topic.
On March 31, 2004, an article by Steve Lackmeyer reported the headline, “City Council delays vote on Gold Dome,” and the content of the article effectively evidences that no action had been taken on the federal application during the hiatus between July 2003 and March 2004. The article begins by saying, “A $1 million federal loan guarantee application to help pay for renovation to the Gold Dome building at NW 23 an Classen Boulevard has been delayed,” but he might have added a concluding word, “again.” The article noted the proposal’s opposition by Ward 8 council member Guy Liebmann and that he had successfully lobbied to delay voting on the application until April 13, he asserting that the matter needed more study. Ordinarily, Oklahoman reports of City Council action occur on Wednesday, the day after council meetings but the April 14 Oklahoman made no mention of this item, even though Lackmeyer did report that the City Council put a stop to nude dancing at Dottie’s on South Shields — so it’s not like the Oklahoman wasn’t paying attention to the April 13 City Council proceedings.
Regardless, the matter was before the City Council on May 4 and, conditioned upon Irene Lam personally guaranteeing $200,000 should the redevelopment project fail, the federal loan application was finally approved by the City Council. Similar and earlier such applications had not made developer guarantee requirements, and even though Lam felt that she was being treated unfairly, she assented to the requirement. A May 5, 2004, Oklahoman article said,
Ward 8 Councilman Guy Liebmann asked for the personal guarantee. He cite a previous Section 108 loan granted by the city to Tower Tech in 1999. Liebmann supported that loan despite warnings by then-Mayor Kirk Humphreys that the water cooling tower company was failing. ¶ Tower Tech eventually declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loan. Liebmann said he wanted to minimize the city’s risk on such a loan for the domed building.
“I think your number just came up at the wrong time,” Liebmann told Lam. * * *
* * *
Ward 6 Councilwoman Ann Simank, who represents the neighborhood where the building is, said she didn’t understand why so much was being asked of Lam. ¶ She also criticized the tone of the questions being asked by some council members. Simank said Lam had already gone above and beyond federal requirements for the loan. ¶ “I commend you for offering that [the guarantee],” Simank told Lam. “I don’t think I would. And I don’t know that I’d want to stand here in front of this council and be spoken to in the way you’ve had to be spoken to. I’m surely apologetic for that.”
Although not related to the dome’s restoration or development (since the vote did not affect Dr. Lam’s or her organization’s debt to the city), it should be noted that the city’s obligation to the federal government was revisited in April 2011 when the City Council voted 7-2 to utilize $874,000 of federal Community Development Block Grant money to satisfy the city’s Gold Dome Section 108 debt to the federal government. That money had been given as security by the city on the original 2004 Gold Dome loan. Council members Pete White and Ed Shadid voted against the proposal, White saying that,
“I’m not voting against this kind of a project,” White said. “I don’t think we ought to prepay $1 million that we’re paying 1 percent interest on without a thorough vetting of all the other things that money could be used for.” ¶ White argued that the nearly $900,000 in grant money could be better used on another project to benefit residents’ quality of life rather than paying off a low-interest loan.
* * *
If the federal Community Development Block Grant program is cut, as has been discussed in Washington, D.C., and the city had not paid off the federal loan with the money, it could have faced paying the loan with general revenue bonds, Claus said after a question from Ward 8 Councilman Patrick Ryan.
Back to restoration and renovation. A June 17, 2004, article by Steve Lackmeyer said that final renovation plans had been approved by the Urban Design Commission, the same body that had earlier saved it from demolition. Unfortunately, restoration of the dome’s exterior to its original golden luster could not be done because of cost and because of the brevity of a guarantee, said the article. Dis-assembly would have been required, the pieces shipped to Kansas where each aluminum piece would then be dipped into a electrically charged vat of chemicals, shipped back and, then, hopefully, reassembled “like a jigsaw puzzle.” The least expensive estimate was $450,000 with only a 2-year guarantee.
The article also reflected that Norman architect Mike Kertok and contractor Ronald Rocke, president of Maccini Construction, were optimistic about renovation of the dome’s interior to its original presentation.
Designs also call for restoring an inner gold dome that for years has been hidden by ceiling panels. ¶ There are actually two domes, the outer dome and inner dome,” Kertok said. “When we started, we didn’t know that. We’ve taken some of the panels out, and the inner dome is in good shape.”
As previously mentioned, the dome’s acceptance to the list of National Register of Historic Places occurred in September 2003. Renovations began in 2004. In November 2007, the dome project was one of 21 national award winners from the National Trust for Historic Preservation organization. At this point, it is right to show a few photos of the inside and outside of the premises.
Street view 1960s
Aerial view 1960s
Street view March 2012
There is more that could be said, but this is enough to traverse the beginnings of Citizens State Bank from its beginnings, its meteoric climb in the Gold Dome, its darker days and demise, and the final chapters on its salvation and restoration.
This ends Part 1 of Oklahoma City Circa 1967. Coming next, Part 2.