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OKLAHOMA CITY — At a lively meeting of the Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners on Wednesday, the Commissioners discussed banning certain types of free speech activities on County property, as well as the expenditure of CARES Act money.

How the sausage gets made

Government according to columnist Marty Peercy

Free Speech

A resolution to ban some free speech activities on certain county properties was very briefly discussed. At the item’s introduction, District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey requested that the item be deferred to Friday for a special meeting. Calvey explained that he had received the resolution with insufficient time to thoroughly review the specifics. The item was deferred by agreement of all commissioners.

While discussing the item, Calvey stated that if he had to vote on it today, “I’d vote yes.” A protestor in the back of the room began to shout, “Fascism!” and was escorted out of the room.

After voting to defer the item the gallery largely cleared, though some protestors remained and later disrupted the meeting with a chant including the statement, “We will continue to interrupt until you’re not corrupt.”

Reached via text for comment, District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert said, “I don’t support the resolution proposed in today’s meeting. It limits free speech and the right to assemble. During a global pandemic and a movement for racial justice, we must ensure that government is transparent and accessible.”

Late update

Originally, the board decided to defer the item to Friday.

But, Free Press learned from Brian Maughan later Wednesday that the original author of the resolution, Court Clerk Rick Warren, had withdrawn his name from the resolution. The future of the resolution is now in limbo unless some other official is willing to become the author.

Warren’s statement on withdrawing the resolution was that after the meeting he had heard from members of the group protesting that they did not intend to disrupt jury trials and that was the reason he was withdrawing it.

But, according to Maughan, Warren left the BoCC during the meeting before ever speaking on the issue.

Ahead of time there had been speculation that Warren had been asked to author the resolution by the judges. But, at one point in his statement he said, “I was asked to place the item on the agenda for the Sheriff and I did so.”

And, an even later update: Free Press has learned that all three commissioners have assumed the role of authoring the resolution since Warren dropped out. The 11:30 meeting Friday is on to hear this item.

CARES Funds

Calvey brought an item for the allocation of over $30 million in CARES funding for the reimbursement of the County for costs of the Criminal Justice Authority and the Sheriff’s Office regarding the jail, along with other county costs.

Blumert raised concerns that this item hadn’t been through the Budget Evaluation Team or, more importantly, the Budget Board of the County for approval. Calvey’s assertion was that it wasn’t necessary. Blumert countered that the Board had voted months prior to put all CARES allocations through that process. Calvey claimed to not recall that vote and said, “Well, good, maybe we’ll have to vote again.”

As the dollar amount was not included in the agenda item, and due to concerns of members of the Budget Board, the item was deferred so it could be heard at the next day’s Budget Board meeting.

Two more CARES fund items were similarly deferred. One for $3 million to be used for a “hero pay” bonus to Jail and Juvenile Detention staff, and one for improvements to the physical plant of the Jail. After approval from the Budget Board these items will return to the Commissioners for consideration.

Eviction Prevention

An item came on regarding the allocation of $1.5 million of CARES fund dollars to be allocated to the Oklahoma County Home Finance Authority to be used for utility, rent, and mortgage assistance.

While this item had been agreed to in form, Calvey asked to defer the item. He said that he believed the entire amount of CARES money should be budgeted before spending this portion. Calvey said that core county business should be a priority, whereas rental assistance was brand new ground for the county.

Calvey’s motion died for want of a second, and Blumert moved the item for approval with District Three Commissioner Brian Maughan seconding. The item passed 2-1 with Calvey voting against.


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