The Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to reinstate public comments to their board meetings. Kevin Calvey’s Chief Deputy Myles Davidson sat as a proxy for Calvey.
This comes after two weeks of loud protests not only at the commissioner’s meetings but the Jail Trust and the Budget Board meetings over the lack of public input into decision making, especially about CARES Act money being transferred to the Jail Trust.
Public comment on the matter was resisted officially by those bodies even though there were individual members who thought they should allow it.
But, protesters disrupted the meetings and spoke anyway creating sometimes loud and disorderly scenes. And even though some publications have described those scenes as “chaotic,” there were no physical conflicts, no arrests were made, and the out-of-order comments eventually came to a natural end.
The trouble could have been avoided by allowing public input into the decision-making process according to protesters who talked to Free Press.
The motion was placed on the agenda by Commissioner Carrie Blumert who said that she wanted not just comments to be allowed at the end of the meeting but also in response to individual items before they took a vote on them.
Davidson, Calvey’s staff member, suggested that they could “simplify” the process by just going back to their original pre-pandemic rules. But, Blumert responded that there are constituents that cannot risk getting out in the current environment. Davidson didn’t carry his argument further.
County Clerk David Hooten will now work with his staff to set up their Webex access to allow as many as 1,000 participants.
The original sticking point for mostly Calvey but also Maughan was about how to give the public an opportunity to comment virtually as well as in person. The Oklahoma County DA’s office had determined that if commissioners would be allowed to participate virtually then the public would have to be allowed as well if there were public comments at all.
Calvey in particular has openly resisted giving the public the ability to comment virtually once saying that even “Neo-Nazis” could comment and there could be “10,000 people commenting from around the world.”
Hooten had assured commissioners several weeks ago that his staff was capable of using their Webex access to control commenters, structuring participants to take turns and in a secure way if the commissioners decided to have virtual comments.