Incest… what an ugly word. Yet it of all the words in the dictionary this word best describes the legal system in Tulsa. The word incest comes from the 13th century, derived from the Latin term “incestum” which means unchastely, which refers to sexual intercourse between near kindred. Incestuous is a related term which can be defined as “improperly intimate or interconnected”. And yes, this concerns Representative Dan Sullivan and specifically describes the contorted legal proceedings that surround both his own divorce and the lawyers involved on both sides.
Here are the players in this modern tragedy:
Judge Funderburke Judge Barcus Rick White Guy Fortney James Gotwals
And since they seem determined to re enact the movie Deliverance up on the fourth floor of the Tulsa Courthouse , let's give them avatars and nicknames to fit their incestous behaviour so we don't forget the kind of men we are discussing, with my apologies to any real hillbillies out there:
Rick White Judge Funderburke James Gotwals Guy Fortney Judge Barcus Sam Daniels
Like stereotypical stories of hillbillies in Arkansas, Representative Sullivan, his attorney James R. Gotwals (Xplicit), and Mrs. Sullivan’s three attorneys Rick White (Ballistic), Guy Fortney (Snyper), and Sam Daniels (Stifler) were having a grand old time keeping it in the family. These hillbillys, uh... attorneys, are either part of the notorious 4th Floor Club or are trying hard to earn admission.
Now, I've gone to a lot of trouble naming these five guys and finding an appropriate picture so from now on they have new nicknames. Be sure and spread these around if you work at the Tulsa Courthouse.
This is one long article, over 8 pages of links to documents and explanations of the entire incestuous relationship between the lawyers and judges in the Tulsa County Courthouse. Are there some decent attorneys and judges in that court house? We will know by their actions after this story comes to their attention.
The story really is quite simple. A consent decree was signed. Months later the man that drew up the consent decree learned he had screwed over his own client by leaving out one word in the document, then allegedly he conspired with two opposing attorneys to correct his malpractice, shifting tens of thousands of dollars in losses from his malpractice insurance company to the other party in the divorce.
Understand that Mrs. Sullivan has had four divorce attorneys so far in her case since September of 2007. The first attorney, Sharon L. Corebitt, a reported pit bull of a divorce attorney died in a suspicious fire at her home on December 12th 2007. I say suspicious because there is no mention of any smoke alarms that should have warned Corebitt and her husband before the smoke reached the upper bedroom.
We will start at the beginning of the end of the divorce and read the court transcript of the April 7th 2009 hearing where Tulsa Judge Kirsten Pace heard Representative Sullivan, Mrs. Sullivan, and their respective attorneys James R. Gotwals (Xplicit) and Guy Fortney (Snyper). Understand that this is a “consent” decree, meaning that both parties negotiated the settlement, there was no judge involved in setting the terms. All the terms were settled in negotiation prior to going before the judge including the date of valuation of bank accounts, 401K accounts, and insurance policy cash values.
is the cover page of the transcript but the meat of the matter is on page 8, page 16, page 18, and page 19.
On page 7
lines 5 through 8 describe how a Smith Barney 401K account is to be split, 50 – 50, with an additional $30,000.00 going to Mrs. Sullivan. Little else is said on the matter, no specific valuation date mentioned.
On page 16
of the transcript, lines 13 through 18 describe how the Northwest Mutual Insurance policy is to be split, the cash value on the date of separation, plus any increases or losses. The value goes up and down based on performance of stocks and bonds held as investments as well as continuing monthly payments into the account. Representative Sullivan had been ordered to continue making all payments including all insurance payments. But the important part is the inclusion of ”the date of separation”.
On page 18
of the transcript, the judge goes over the consent part of the decree that both parties have agreed with everything so no further hearings are required. The judge also states that the decree must match what was agreed upon to day. On lines 14 through 19 Representative Sullivan’s attorney James Gotwalls (Explicit) suggests that the two attorneys can sign for their clients once the consent decree is draw up. Then Gotwalls (Explicit)offers to pay for the transcript of the hearing, intending to be the one to draw up the final consent decree. Not a good thing for Mrs. Sullivan to have her ex husband’s attorney draw up the papers and have them finalized before she can read it!
On page 19
of the transcript though, things get interesting. Mrs. Sullivan throws a wrench into the machinery by demanding that both parties sign the final consent decree before the judge signs it. On line 3 Mrs. Sullivan says one word, “No” and her attorney, Fortney (Snyper)asks that both parties sign the consent decree. The judge agrees and further states that he will review the consent decree and insure that it matches the agreement made at the consent hearing. Note that early on Mrs. Sullivan clearly doesn’t trust her own attorney to protect her but insists on signing the consent decree herself along with Representative Sullivan.
Pretty simple, huh? It is over. Now both parties can begin the process of putting Representative Sullivan’s lying and infidelity behind them and start new lives.
Oh if it were that simple…
So Gotwals draws up the decree, both parties review it and sign the decree, and the judge signs it, settling the divorce. Since Gotwals drew up the decree, neither he nor Representative Sullivan should have any complaints, right? But Representative Dan Sullivan’s own attorney, James Gotwals (Explicit), had made a major blunder when drawing up the decree. He listed the date of separation as the date to set the value of the Smith Barney 401K and forgot to add language about any stock market losses that might occur before the money was distributed to both parties! Remember that the consent hearing transcript was mute on this point so if it was included in the signed final decree, both parties had reviewed it and agreed to it!
On June 9th we have an email from Gotwals (Explicit)to Fortney (Snyper)going over details of the divorce, saying that a QDRO signed by the judge is not necessary to split the Smith Barney 401 K. A QDRO is a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. Remember this because at one point in this article admits that the original consent decree called for a QDRO
On August 7th
a “Joint Letter of Instruction
" along with this email
was sent from Gotwals to Fortney received on August 9th
in order to split the 401 K and disperse the money to the two parties.
Page one has some handwritten notes stating several points:
1. Mrs. Sullivan finding a copy of this letter behind Rick White’s copy on August 28th , long after it had been sent. This was an accidental discovery but a lucky one for her.
2. Fortney never discussing the matter or telling Mrs. Sullivan about the letter to Smith Barney
3. Bringing up a conference call of June 16th stating $501.000.00 (501k or 501 thousand dollars) was the Smith Barney 401K amount to split as that was the valuation on the date of separation.
Page two of the Letter of Instruction
, section 3 lists the date of disbursement as the valuation dates, not the date of separation, which is direct violation of the consent divorce decree. As of this time, Mrs. Sullivan is completely out of the loop even though she is being represented by Guy Fortney (Snyper). She has no clue that this letter is being sent to her attorneys.
Page three of the Letter of Instrution
is important because it shows a list of who is getting a copy of the letter. It shows a copy going to an attorney in Gotwals firm, Mary Gutierrez, and also Gotwals, Guy Fortney (Snyper, Mrs. Sullivan’s attorney) and Representative Dan Sullivan. No mention of Mrs. Sullivan!
Now many might be saying “Wait a minute! No attorney is going to risk a malpractice suit and possible bar complaints by screwing over their own client!”. And they would be right, attorney Guy Fortney (Explicit) has found himself in a dangerous position as an attorney, he is wanting out before this goes down!
Here is a screen shop of the OSCN.net search
result of the Sullivan divorce case, it is small so you might have to use the zoom control in the lower right hand side of your screen (Windows) or click on it and it might zoom up. Note on August 25th
that a motion is filled to allow an attorney to withdraw. That would be Guy Fortney (Snyper) The next line on August 26th
shows judge Barcus (Skippy) granting the motion to withdraw but requiring Fortney (Snyper)to stick around for 30 days as required by Oklahoma law.
The next line shows a “Motion to correct clerical error in judgment – Nunc Pro Tunc” filed on August 26th. A Nunc Pro Tunc motion is required to reopen an area that has already been settled, past the appeal date. You see, the final consent decree had a thirty day limit on appealing it should something be found wrong. Representative Dan Sullivan’s attorney, Gotwals, didn’t catch his error in setting the date of the Smith Barney 401K to be valued and not allowing for any losses should the stock market go down.
The next court date is shown as August 27th, with Petitioner present (Mrs. Sullivan), Guy Fortney (Snyper), James Gotwals (Explicit)is there representing the Respondent (Representative Sullivan) and Rick White (Ballistic, Mrs. Sullivan’s new attorney ) is allowed to make an entry of appearance, showing that he was there in some capacity to represent Mrs. Sullivan. Mrs. Sullivan was there that day to be arraigned on the first of 34 contempt charges, spurious charges filed by Gotwals (Explicit)in an attempt to get Mrs. Sullivan to accept the modification of the divorce consent decree! When all of it was over a year later, Mrs. Sullivan was found guilty of 2 of the 34 contempt charges, one where she responded to an email from Representative Sullivan (they had been in regular contact despite the court order to no contact), and another where she allegedly refused to sign a paper lowering the price of the Tulsa home (the realtor was on her side but the night before, sources say that Gotwals (Explicit)called the realtor and told them not to show up, that their testimony wasn’t needed).
Don't forget what these good old boys look like while you read the story!
But the importance of this hearing to our case is that Gotwals (Explicit) objected to Fortney’s (Snyper) withdrawal as counsel for Mrs. Sullivan. But Barcus had already ruled that Fortney (Snyper)could withdraw and Mrs. Sullivan already had hired another attorney, Rick White (Ballistic)who was present!
Why would the opposing attorney object to Mrs. Sullivan’s choice of who her lawyer was? In fact, during the hearing, Gotwals (Explicit) told the judge in an open court room: “I don’t want White, I want Fortney!”. Is this beginning to stink of corruption and collusion?
Why would opposing counsel care who represented Mrs. Sullivan?
The next line is August 31th with the notation Barcus (Skippy)eturned the Nunc Pro Tunc unsigned with a note. Several questions just scream corruption:
1. The motion for the Nunc Pro Tunc was filed 5 days earlier.
2. It was not mentioned in the contempt arraignment on August 27th
3. Nor had a hearing been set to hear the Nunc Pro Tunc.
How is it possible to file a motion on a contested issue that would overturn a settled consent decree, signed by both parties and their attorneys, past the legal appeal date and have no hearing on it? Why would Gotwals (Explicit)dare to send an unsigned court order to a judge to be signed? What happened to Mrs. Sullivan’s right to trial?
Now you are seeing why Rick Fortney(Snyper) is wanting out! Gotwals (Explicit) has him pinned in a corner with his only way out is to either run away or screw his client out of tens of thousands of dollars!
Let’s go back one day to an email that Gotwals sent Mrs. Sullivan’s new attorney, Rick White
, with a copy sent to the old attorney Guy Fortney (Snyper). First was an admission that there had been a conference that very morning, on Rick White’s (Ballistic)second day on the case. Second, Gotwals (Explicit) is asking Fortney(Snyper) to sign the Nunc Pro Tunc order overturning the previous consent decree, without Mrs. Sullivan’s knowledge and without a hearing or trial, costing Mrs. Sullivan tens of thousands of dollars. In return, Gotwals agrees to drop his demand that Guy Fortney remain as Mrs. Sullivan’s attorney. On page two
of this letter is a list of who else besides Rick White is getting a copy, Mary Gutierrez, the Gotwals firm attorney, Guy Fortney (Snyper), and Representative Dan Sullivan. Where is Mrs. Sullivan’s copy? If Representative Sullivan got a copy, why not send one to Mrs. Sullivan?
Okay, I'm getting tired of putting the nickname with the attorney or judge. You've got the hang of things by now.
Despite having TWO attorneys on her payroll, Mrs. Sullivan was kept out of the loop intentionally with the apparent purpose to cheat her out of tens of thousands of dollars! No hearing, no trial, not notice, done 100% against her instructions to her attorneys!
But was Mrs. Sullivan instructing her attorneys to fight the change in the original consent decree? Let’s look at an email sent to Rick White and Gotwals from Mary
Gutierez on October 1st
at 10:49 AM then forwarded by Rick White to Mrs. Sullivan at 10:53 the same morning. It is at the bottom of this page, remember that this is a copy of an email page so you have to read the bottom messages first and work back to the beginning.
The 10:49 am email is mostly about loose ends but look at the last line where she tells White she is sending an offer on the contempt charges later today. That is crucial, the contempt charges are being used as pressure to force Mrs. Sullivan to sign the Nunc Pro Tunc order changing her original divorce decree and cheating her out of tens of thousands of dollars
At the top of the page notice the end of the next email that was sent by Mrs. Sullivan. The next page will show the beginning of the email
but for now note the references to the Smith Barney valuation and their accountant Brian Connaly, and emails to Fortney, the previous attorney.
At the bottom of page one, look for the email dated October 1st, 2009 12:45 pm from Mrs. Sullivan to Rick White. This is the response to the first email White forwarded from Mary Gutierez that morning. In it is confirmation of the forging of Mrs. Sullivan’s signature on the purchase agreement contract on the OKC condo, irrelevant to this discussion but interesting to have another confirmation of that forgery we discussed in the last newsletter. What is germane to our story is the last few lines where Mrs. Sullivan tells of multiple emails between herself, Guy Fortney, her brother , and the accountant Brian Conally setting out her position on the Smith Barney 401K.
Above this 12:45 pm email is Rick White’s response. The first issue is whether or not the OKC condo is to be sold furnished or not. Well, they paid something like $40,000.00 extra when they bought the condo just so they could keep the furniture, appliances, and drapes. If the condo is sold unfurnished, does that mean that Representative Sullivan gets the furniture without paying Mrs. Sullivan half? White is correct, the divorce decree is silent on the issue but it needs addressed.
Second is the discussion between Rick White and Guy Fortney about the Smith Barney 401K where Fortney claims that the original consent decree contained a mistake and denied that there was any correspondence from Mrs. Sullivan to the contrary!
As an aside, note the personal note stating that on 4 27 2009 Gotwals referred a case to Fortney (can you say payoff?) and another note stating multiple emails between Mrs. Sullivan (JS), Fortney, and Brian Connaly (the accountant). Another note on the right side states that on 7 16 2009 Fortney and Mrs. Sullivan discussed the fact that there was no error on the original consent decree. The final note references Bob Bartz, the senior attorney that Rick White worked for on Mrs. Sullivan’s case. Bartz was the attorney that brought the case into the firm and had the first consultation with Mrs. Sullivan on August 19th 2009.
Why was Mrs. Sullivan shopping for a new attorney? Because Fortney was changing his position on the original consent decree, something had changed his mind or someone had gotten to him. On July 16th Fortney had mentioned the Smith Barney 401K total and said that Gotwals had a different settlement amount than what Mrs. Sullivan had provided. Mrs. Sullivan pointed out the language in the consent decree where Gotwals set the valuation of the Smith Barney account as of the date of separation and he even put the date September 18th of 2007.
The consent decree even mentioned the exact amount of money that was calculated by James Gotwals, $509,879.58.
Guy Fortney said “You are right! There is going to be a scream from downtown!”,
referring to the location of Gotwals office. By making that error, Gotwals had opened up a rock solid case of malpractice for failing to insert a clause stating that any stock market losses were to be split between the date of separation and the date of disbursement like he did with the Northwest Mutual Insurance policy
. (the PDF is upside down! If you want to read it, print it off and flip it over! Sorry!)
So Fortney knew exactly what the original consent decree stated, knew it was very precise including the date of the actual separation and the exact amount of money to be split down to the last penny and all of it calculated and inserted into the consent decree by Gotwals himself, but something caused Fortney to switch sides and begin supporting Gotwals and Representative Sullivan’s position! However, this email refers to 13 emails
between Fortney, Mrs. Sullivan, and Annette McPhetridge of Smith Barney between April 16th
and August 11th
of 2009 during the time that the consent decree was being drafted.
But around August 9th, Fortney told Mrs. Sullivan that Gotwals was likely going to fight about the original consent decree. So Mrs. Sullivan knew that there was a chance that she would be dragged back into court and wanted a second opinion on whether the original consent decree was an error so she went to see Bob Bartz on August 19th 2009. Gotwals was claiming “scriveners error” which is a clerical error in a document made by a secretary, typist, or other office worker.
Now there is a case for when an oral contract was given and then reduced into written form and a mistake was made but in this instance it was Representative Sullivan’s attorney James Gotwals that read the consent decree hearing transcript and wrote the actual consent decree that both parties and their attorneys signed. And the law doesn’t consider an attorney an office worker, indeed his position is that of knowing every single detail and nuance of the case so he is held to a much, much, higher standard.
But if it were a scrivener’s error, both parties would have to sign off on any changes and both attorneys would represent their clients to the best of their abilities. That was not the case here; Mrs. Sullivan was railroaded on this issue.
So on October 5th
a few minutes past midnight, Mrs. Sullivan sends an email to Rick White
telling him that she just learned today of the hearing on the Nunc Pro Tunc issue from looking on the OSCN.net website and asking why she hadn’t been told of the hearing. Her email points out that Gotwals and Representative Sullivan are asking for criminal contempt and have threatened her with si x months in the county jail for the 14 contempt charges they had filed at that point, the vast majority of which were found unfounded by judge Barcus. She is also concerned about new contempt charges filed on October 2nd
, a few days before, as she doesn’t know if her attorney filed them or if Representative Sullivan and Gotwals filed more contempt charges (they had, a total of 34 ridiculous issues).
Mrs. Sullivan is standing tall in this email, telling Rick White in no uncertain terms that she has just now learned of this Nunc Pro Tunc hearing, wants a jury trial on the issue, asks for a court reporter to be present to preserve any record of what goes on, and expects Rick White to not compromise her legal position.
Regardless of her wishes, Mrs. Sullivan was thrown to the wolves that morning in court. There was no court reporter present and when Mrs. Sullivan asked for one, her request was refused. Rick White appeared but Guy Fortney did not. When the judge asked why, Gotwals replied that Fortney was away from town but he could contact him via cell phone if needed. Gotwals even told the judge that Fortney agreed with him that there was a scrivener’s error and the judge took the opposing counsel’s word of it! We do not have a transcript of what went on but this motion to vacate the Nunc Pro Tunc lays out what happened on October 5th and the reasons why the Nunc Pro Tunc was improperly signed by the judge. It also clearly infers that Mrs. Sullivan was abandoned by her two attorneys, Rick White and Guy Fortney while at the same time defending one of them!
And if you want absolute proof that both Rick White and Guy Fortney knew they were abandoning their client, look at the “settled” Nunc Pro Tunc that was signed by Gotwals and judge Barcus. Note that the signature space labeled Guy Fortney is blank except for a note stating “over objection”. That’s right, both of her attorneys refused to sign the supposedly “settled” agreement to change the original consent decree.
Note that only one word was added, the word “losses” in section 4 where they are discussing interests, accretions, and accruals.
Next week we will answer some of the questions from last week’s newsletters about judicial corruption in Tusla and dig into some existing complaints about the judicial system in Tulsa County.