In a special meeting of the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) on Wednesday, the Trustees voted to authorize CEO Greg Williams to negotiate a contract for $3 million of CARES Act funds. During public comment, the Trust was castigated by some speakers for their actions.
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The only order of new business on Wednesday’s agenda was a resolution authorizing the earlier approved $3 million in CARES Act fund for repairs and improvements to the Jail.
Unlike a typical county project, this resolution would provide for using the design-build method for design and construction. That means that one contractor will be chosen to complete the project from design through to completion.
The resolution was proposed for a vote as an “emergency,” allowing competitive bidding to be waived for this project. In fact, the resolution also included the contractor to be hired for the project.
Harrison, Walker, and Harper, LP is a contracting firm based in Paris, Texas that specializes in, among other things, government contracts.
Sean Cummings, local business owner, addressed the Trust and expressed great frustration that they had chosen an out-of-state company for the work when Oklahoma County is hurting. He pleaded with the Trustees to put off the vote and find a local company to handle this project.
Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu asked Chairperson Everest for an explanation as to why the item was considered and “emergency.” The special meeting was posted on September 25, but the agenda item was not added until several days later.
It was explained by Vice-Chair Jim Couch that the project is up against the federally imposed deadline of December 30 and that not declaring this an emergency vote, more time would be taken up. That time, of course, would be required to solicit competitive bids for the project.
The vote passed with the necessary six votes, with Ekwerekwu voting no, joined by the Sheriff’s designee Danny Honeycutt, who referred to the resolution as “negligent.”
In a surprise move that angered many in the crowd, Everest moved to cancel the Trust’s scheduled meeting of October 5 and carry over that meeting’s agenda items to the meeting scheduled for October 19.
At the last meeting of the Trust, a discussion and vote were held to remove ICE agents from the County Jail. The vote passed 4-2 with one abstention. While many celebrated, the news came that evening that the vote was not valid as five votes are needed to create an affirmative action, according to the Trust indenture.
Another hearing of that item was planned for the October 5 meeting.
Ekwerekwu again asked Everest why. Everest simply stated that the Trust needed to be more efficient in their business dealings. Ekwerekwu asked for clarification and said, “We can be efficient on October 5.”
A vote was called and the meeting was cancelled. The crowd in the gallery did not approve and showed it by being customarily vocal.
As has become the norm, several activists were present at the meeting on Wednesday.
As people who signed up to speak were called, District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey, a member of the Trust, sat with his eyes cast down at his hands. Persons in the crowd, throughout public comment, would occasionally shout Calvey down, demanding that he pay attention. Calvey appeared to give no recognition to the shouts.
Speakers repeatedly implored the Trust to take up the issue of ICE before adjourning. According to previous guidance from the District Attorney’s office, to take up that item while not on the agenda would violate the Open Meetings Act, and so the Trustees made no move to do so.
The Trust meets again on October 19th at 1:00 p.m.
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