While the Board of County Commissioners’ normal business was handled quickly Wednesday, two executive sessions and a lengthy discussion about the Sheriff’s proposed transition out of the Oklahoma County Jail took far more time.
Last week Sheriff P.D. Taylor announced his intention to depart the Oklahoma County Detention Center (or, more simply, the Jail) and hand over operations to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (you know, the Jail Trust) as of 12:00 A.M. on January 1.
Friday, Taylor followed up with a specific proposal to move to the county-owned Krowse Building at NE 36th Street and Martin Luther King Avenue.
This announcement, coming only eight weeks before the deadline, has triggered an amount of scrambling and wringing of hands.
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At Wednesday’s meeting, Assistant District Attorney Aaron Etherington, who represents that office during BoCC meetings, presented an agenda item suggesting the formation of a committee to assist in the nuts and bolts work of making Sheriff’s move and the Jail Trust taking over to happen.
The proposed Oklahoma County Detention Center Transition Committee would be composed of one appointee each from the offices of the Sheriff, County Clerk, County Treasurer, and each County Commissioner.
The purpose of the committee would be to “identify all necessary actions to be taken on behalf of these County Offices and make recommendations to other public bodies and committees of the County in order to effectively and efficiently manage the transition of operational control from the Sheriff to the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Authority.”
The idea, according to Etherington, is simply a policy consideration. There are many facets to the administration of a jail of this size, including the signing authority for hundreds of contracts a year.
While the Jail Trust may or may not have the know-how to make the transition, only two members of that Trust are County employees.
Access to all the decision-making apparatuses will be necessary to facilitate the handoff.
During the discussion, District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert said to Etherington, “I understand that we have a January 1st deadline.’ District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey grinned at that and shook his head.
Etherington replied that the Board of County Commissioners have not set a deadline, nor has the County itself or the Jail Trust. Only the Sheriff has done so.
Calvey asserted that the Sheriff is constitutionally obligated to maintain control of the Jail until another entity takes over. Etherington disagreed.
“So, the Sheriff can just walk away from the Jail?” Calvey asked.
“I believe he can, yes,” Etherington replied.
But, those weren’t the only concerns about the transition from the Sheriff being the Jail administrator to the Jail Trust hiring a new administrator.
County Clerk concerns
County Clerk David Hooten expressed his concern that as Secretary of the BoCC as well as Secretary for the Jail Trust, and having to staff other county meetings, his staff might be spread too thin if another committee was formed to meet every day.
His concerns were addressed by Etherington who said that somebody on the committee would be allowed to take notes for the committee’s meetings.
Hooten asked for clarification on the deadline, suggesting that it was a “synthetic date with no weight to it.” Etherington said that she did not agree with that assessment.
After much discussion, it became apparent that while Blumert was ready to authorize the formation of the committee, Calvey was not sold on the suggested make-up of the body.
Maughan moved that the item be stricken so that a different resolution could be authored to include a slightly different composition of the proposed committee.
The Board will hear that item during their regular meeting on Monday, November 4.
After returning from the first of two executive sessions, District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan requested approval for legal representation form Coyle Law Firm in an amount not to exceed $75,000.
Maughan is listed in his official position as a Defendant in a wrongful death lawsuit first filed in District Court June 22, 2018, along with the Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff P.D. Taylor, and former County Commissioners Willa Johnson and Ray Vaughn.
In cases like this wherein the County and elected county officials are all listed, it is not uncommon for the officials to contract separate counsel.
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