4 minute read

After technical problems stymied access for the public to two County meetings on Monday, Free Press reached out to the County Clerk David B. Hooten’s office to learn more about what went wrong.

Free Press was able to speak via telephone to Randy Lewis, Public Information Officer for the County Clerk’s Office who attributed the issues to incomplete “upgrades” still in process for their livestream systems.

And, the issue of a staff member saying “shut up” live while a member of the public was speaking has been referred to “HR.”

Virtual Only

Monday’s meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) began with problems and went downhill from there. 

Members of the public and the press alike were met with a locked and cordoned off Board of County Commissioners room, the setting for most meetings of the Trust and other multi-member bodies of the County government.

Meeting room courthouse annex
The doors to the Courthouse Annex meeting room on the second floor were locked, the lights off, and access to the doors cordoned off 4-19-21 (BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

Clerk’s staff said that the meeting was not going to have any participation in person, but strictly via WebEx, the virtual meeting software of choice for the County Clerk’s office.

However, many members of the public and the press were kept out of the virtual meeting, illegally, for over thirty minutes of the Trust’s conduct of business. Shortly after being granted access to the meeting, the Trust recessed until such a time that the meeting could be rescheduled.

According to Mr. Lewis, the Clerk’s Office was “just doing what we were told.”

On the front of the meeting’s agenda was a note from the clerk saying that the virtual-only meeting was due to concerns about COVID 19. However, most meetings of County bodies have been attended in person by some members of those bodies as well as members of the public.

‘Shut Up’

During Monday’s Jail Trust meeting, the streaming audio on YouTube managed to pick up comments from the County Clerk’s staff as they worked to try to troubleshoot for the Trust during their meeting. 

At one point, while local activist Adriana Laws was speaking, one of those staff members was heard very clearly saying, “Oh shut up. She’s so ….,” before trailing off.

Lewis told Free Press that, “We’re handling that internally, with our HR department. And that’s about all we can really [make a statement about] on that.”

It seemed that virtual participants were hearing what the staff member was hearing and that there was no direct audio coming through, which set up the situation where listeners were able to overhear the staff’s comments, including the comment, “Shut up.”

“What we did is we had two team members in an office trying to assist the Trust with the meeting and they did not have their audio muted at the time, and that’s what you heard.”

Upgrade Problems

“What people don’t understand about that,” Lewis said, referring to the issues with sound quality and access to virtual meetings, “we started back in March with an upgrade of our BoCC room, because we’re being asked to host additional meetings that involve a lot more people.

“So, we started doing what we could do to upgrade that room. And they started in March, but with all the special meetings and everything, that project is still underway.”

“So, what we had a problem with yesterday, is there’s a combination of videos out there,” Lewis told us. “There’s one from our YouTube channel. And, that’s where our audio was cutting in and out because it’s in the upgrade process. There’s something that they’re having to patch together that’s not working properly on the audio.”

He added, “What we did is we uploaded both the youTube video, and the WebEx video, and the WebEx video is where the good audio is. But the youTube audio was not picking up everything because of this upgrade situation that we’re going through.”

Lewis added that people are making allegations that the Clerk’s office edited the videos, which he firmly denies.

Meeting rescheduled

A new meeting of the Jail Trust is now scheduled for 3:00 p.m., in person at the BoCC meeting room on the County Courthouse Annex second floor, on Wednesday afternoon.

Free Press will be there in person to cover the meeting.

Last Updated April 20, 2021, 3:24 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor