At Monday’s controversial meeting of the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners, Commissioners approved a policy of full cooperation with ICE at the County Jail.
Readers may recall that the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) voted recently to remove ICE agents from the County Jail. The vote was later vacated as the Trust’s indenture requires a minimum of five votes for any affirmative action.
In a move some regarded as a political stunt, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey requested an item be added to Monday’s agenda to ratify an Oklahoma County policy to fully cooperate with personnel and contractors of the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE).
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This policy will allow ICE agents full access to the Jail and further ensures that the Jail will honor 48-hour ICE detainers. ICE detainers require a prisoner to be kept for at most 48 hours after being set for release so that ICE agents may come and take custody of the person in question.
Upon introducing the item, Calvey, who chairs the meetings of the Commissioners, immediately moved the item for approval before hearing any discussion or comment from his fellow Commissioners or the public.
District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert posed several concerns about the legitimacy of the agenda item.
Her first comment on the subject was to say that it was her belief that the BoCC does not have the authority to set policy for the Jail Trust. Calvey countered that the terms of the lease agreement with the Trust dictates that the Trust must follow County policies, and so he wanted to set the policy now.
Blumert asked why the item hadn’t gone through the county’s Policy and Governance Committee. Calvey claimed that County Policy needn’t go through that committee. One might then wonder why the committee exists.
Blumert stated that her office had sent a letter to the District Attorney’s office to formally request an opinion on the issue of the BoCC having authority to set this policy. A representative of the DA’s office at Monday’s meeting claimed to have no knowledge of that letter. He further stated that he was not prepared to give any opinion on the matter.
Five residents signed up to address the Commission on the agenda item. In a stark departure from typical BoCC meetings, Calvey imposed a strict one minute limit on each person’s comments. As speakers reached the one minute mark, their microphone was turned off by County Clerk staff.
One speaker, Sara Bana, reached the minute mark and continued to address the Board. Calvey instructed her to yield the podium and stated that she was cutting into the next speaker’s time. The following speaker, Jess Eddy, was not given a full minute for his remarks.
Ultimately a vote on the item was called and Calvey was joined by District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan in voting in favor of the policy. Blumert alone voted no.
Upon adjournment, some of the assembled crowd moved to leave the room. Some heated words were exchanged between county staff members and protesters.
According to one witness, Mike Brake of Maughan’s office approached a protestor and told her to shut her [expletive] mouth. Heated words were exchanged as Sheriff’s Deputies intervened, separating the parties.
In a press availability following Monday’s meeting, Calvey again made his case for the Policy, stating that the terms of the lease with the Jail Trust leaves that authority with the BoCC.
He went on to say that now is the time to support law enforcement, be it local, state, or federal. Calvey went on to call protestors anti-American. “People have a right to protest, but not to disrupt meetings or riot.”
Reached via text message for comment, Commissioner Blumert had this to say:
“I am disappointed that my fellow commissioners took up an item that I don’t believe we have the authority to pass. Regardless of your feelings on ICE, this policy should fall with the Jail Trust. I am waiting for the DA’s office to answer my questions on this matter.”
The BoCC will meet again on Monday, October 19 at 9:00 a.m.
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