In a short but spirited special meeting of the Oklahoma County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) on Monday, the Board voted to transfer nearly $9 million of CARES Act funds to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust).
Chairman of the BoCC, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey, stifled public comment during the meeting, referring to rules that the full Board had not committed to.
After calling the meeting to order and asking District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan to open the meeting with a prayer, Calvey skipped to the end of the agenda to allow Citizen Participation. Two members of the public were each given one minute to speak. The microphone was turned off at the expiration of that minute.
When no more comments were allowed, many in the room began shouting that more than two people had signed up. Calvey said they had signed up after the meeting began and, so, they were too late. Members of the audience claimed they had signed up to speak on more than one item of the agenda, but Calvey gave them no heed.
Throughout the rest of the meeting, audience members shouted at the Board to be allowed to speak. Calvey ignored them and pressed on with the meeting, ignoring the listed order of the agenda.
Disagreement among commissioners
The noisy crowd attended the meeting to address an agenda item, listed as Item 2 on the agenda, related to the transfer of CARES Act funds to the Jail Trust.
Calvey’s claim was that a citizen gets “one minute for everything,” a rule that Blumert says she never voted on.
Reached by text for comment later, Blumert had this to say:
“No matter if we agree or disagree with those who attend our meetings, we must allow full public comment. No narrow time frames to speak, or narrow sign up windows.”
“We work for the People,” she continued, “The public pays our salaries. I am disappointed that my colleagues aren’t interested in hearing from their constituents.”
Deer Creek Schools bond
The first order of business the Board heard, listed as Item 3 on the agenda, had to do with allowing the Oklahoma County Finance Authority to assist Deer Creek Schools in refinancing an outstanding bond issue in the amount of $37.5 million. Much of the discussion was difficult to hear in the room as activists continued to disrupt by asking to be heard. The item ultimately passed.
Immediately after voting on that item, Calvey made a motion to enter into Executive Session. District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert pointed out that the Board had not yet heard Item 2. Calvey simply said they would get to it after Executive Session. The Board then recessed.
The Executive Session was called to discuss a recently filed lawsuit styled Green Room Soul Steakhouse, LLC, Steven Butler, Mark Faulk, and Adriana Laws v. Brian Maughan, Kevin Calvey, Board of County Commissioners, et al. In fact, the petitioners in that case were all present at Monday’s meeting of the BoCC, and were vocal in their demands to be heard for public comment.
The Board returned and voted to move the case to Federal Court from the current jurisdiction at the district Court of Oklahoma County where the suit was filed.
CARES Act funds
The Board then finally came back to the beginning of the agenda to discuss transferring $8,794,500 to the Jail Trust.
The Board voted two to one in a rushed meeting months ago to transfer approximately $34 million of County CARES Act funding to the Jail Trust. At the most recent meeting of the Jail Trust, the trustees voted to return approximately $20 million of that money.
To date, none of the $34 million has been transferred anywhere.
In discussion of the proposed transfer, Blumert asked Calvey why none of the money had been transferred.
Calvey’s answer was vague. He said that they had “found some ways to gain flexibility with regard to the deadlines, and while we were figuring out how to do that, it was held there.” He did not elaborate on that flexibility or where “there” was.
Blumert pointed out that the reason the item was on the agenda to begin with is that Calvey stopped a transfer that the Board had voted on.
The item passed unanimously. All the while, activists stood at the podium shouting at the Board for a chance to address them.
More discussion of CARES Act money will be had at a special meeting of the County Budget Board on Tuesday. As Calvey is also the chair of that Board, the rules for public comment may be the same.
The BoCC meets again on Monday, November 16, at 9:00 a.m.