In a roller-coaster ride of a meeting on Tuesday, the Oklahoma County Budget Board voted 7-1 to reallocate CARES Act funds previously allocated for the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust).
They went on to vote by the same number to use that money for a program to assist small businesses in Oklahoma County. However, none of those votes happened until after Chairman of the Budget Board, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey, attempted to keep the meeting from happening.
Upon calling the meeting to order on Tuesday afternoon, Calvey immediately moved to postpone the meeting until November 19th, the next “regularly scheduled” meeting of the Budget Board. His motion was seconded as the large crowd attending the meeting howled in disapproval. District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert spoke up, calling the action ridiculous. A roll call vote was then held. County Clerk David B. Hooten, Court Clerk Rick Warren, and County Assessor Larry Stein each joined Calvey in voting in favor of postponement.
Blumert was joined in voting no by District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan, County Tresurer Butch Freeman, and Undersherrif William Blaik. As the motion did not receive a majority, the meeting continued.
When the agenda item pertaining to the CARES Funds not needed by the Jail Trust came to the floor, Calvey moved to table the item entirely, a motion that is not supported by Robert’s Rules of Order according to Blumert. Whether permissible or not, the vote to table the item failed in a 4-4 tie, just as the motion to postpone the meeting had been.
Last week at the regular meeting of the Jail Trust, the Trustees voted to accept a budget of approximately $15 million of the $34 million in CARES funds originally allocated to the Trust, and to return the remainder to the County for other uses.
Since none of the money was ever actually transferred to the Trust, the Budget Board needed to “un-allocate” the remainder of that money.
In spite of Calvey’s effort to not hear the item, the item was discussed among the Board.
Freeman explained that the clock was ticking on spending this money, as the December deadline looms. Calvey claimed at one point in the meeting that the deadline would change, but provided no evidence of that claim. Blaik, on behalf of the Sheriff, said that not moving forward would put the county in a bind.
Blumert moved to “accept the funds back,” although, again the funds had not in fact gone anywhere. Her motion passed overwhelmingly, while Calvey voted no.
Members of the public had signed up to speak on that agenda item. When Blumert asked to hear those members of the public, Calvey asked if it was her motion to move time for Citizen Participation up from the end of the meeting. Blumert said that people had signed up to speak on specific agenda items, and should be heard on those items.
Calvey argued that the citizens were only allotted one minute per meeting and that the time for Citizen Participation could be moved up if Blumert wished.
The rules for Citizen Participation at the Budget Board state, “Citizens may address the Board during open meetings on any matter on the agenda. If the item is not on the current agenda, citizens may address the Board under the agenda item “Citizen’s Participation.” Calvey’s claim was plainly incorrect.
Still, Blumert made a motion that the public be heard on each item they signed up for. Freeman seconded the motion and all except Calvey voted in favor.
In total 17 members of the public were each allowed one minute to speak on the topic of CARES Act funds.
Reallocation – CARES Funds
After settling the issue of whether the County would receive back the money (that had never actually left County coffers), the Board heard a presentation from Cathy O’Connor of the Oklahoma Industries Authority (OIA), a public Trust.
O’Connor explained the success of Oklahoma City’s CARES Act Small Business Continuity Program. She said that OIA could execute a very similar program for the County if $15 million were transferred to the Trust.
Court Clerk Rick Warren asked for assurances that any money used for such a program would not be used within Oklahoma City, as the City received their own CARES funds of a much greater amount. He also wanted clarification on the legality of using CARES money for those purposes. OIA general counsel John Michael Williams said that it was a matter of Federal Law and that the law would apply to the County as it would to the City.
The Board, after hearing more public comment, voted 7-1 in favor of transferring that money to OIA.
The issue will come before the Board of County Commissioners for approval or denial at their next meeting on November 16 at 9:00 a.m.
The Budget Board meets again on November 19.