The Oklahoma County Budget Board voted on Thursday to allocate $100,000 from General Fund appropriations for the Sheriff’s department to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority.
The Authority, better known as the Jail Trust, will receive the money diverted from a salary budget line item to an operations line item.
The Jail Trust has been functioning without funding since it was formed in June of this year. The funds requested will be used in part to pay for legal counsel, an independent financial review of Jail operations, and consulting services.
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Asked for comment after the vote, Sheriff P.D. Taylor said it was good.
“I voted for it. I voted for it in August. Let [the Trust] take over and let them take responsibility,” said Taylor. “I think some people got involved [with the Trust] who mean well, but I don’t think they realize what an awesome responsibility it is.”
The Sheriff said that running the Jail opens one up to criticism, sarcastically adding, “I get blamed for everything. If your kid gets the flu, that’s my fault.”
The Sheriff’s operation of the jail has been criticized on several fronts, which Free Press has reported in the past:
- Oklahoma County Commissioners establish jail trust in unanimous vote
- Vigil protests ICE agents stationed at Oklahoma County Jail
- Jail Trust and Mistrust – New Criminal Justice Authority meets
- OK County Commissioners divided on ICE officers stationed in County Jail
- Jail Trust considers jail admin instead of sheriff to run Ok County jail
- Jail Trust votes to establish Okla County Jail administrator position
- Tensions flare between Sheriff’s office rep and other Jail Trust members
Tim Tardibono, Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Advisory Council, said that the funding is necessary. “The County has decided to move forward with a Trust. To do that, the Trust has to be funded.”
And, District One County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said, “I’m happy we’re finally moving forward by funding the Trust.”
The Trust requested the allocation on August 9, and the County Budget Board heard the request and voted on it on August 15. At the time, the Budget Board approved the allocation contingent upon a contract between the Trust and the Board of County Commissioners.
When the item then came to the BoCC, the opinion of the District Attorney’s office was that making that allocation contingent on stipulations from the Budget Board and BoCC was not legal.
This gets really complicated.
So, one of the many purposes of a public trust is to shield a municipality, county, or state government–in this case, Oklahoma County–from liability regarding the actions of the Trust.
If the money is allocated, unearmarked, to the Jail Trust and the Trust does something it shouldn’t, the Trust should alone be held accountable legally.
By adding stipulations the Budget Board, and by default, the Board of County Commissioners, would be inviting liability where not necessary or appropriate.
This came before the Board of County Commissioners at least two more times while waiting for clarification from the office of the District Attorney, who had heretofore been mostly quiet on the topic of the Trust.
At this week’s BoCC meeting ADA Aaron Etherington gave a clear position that the contract stipulation was not legal but that the Budget Board could approve the allocation without stipulation and that would be legal. The Board chose to strike the item so it could be heard at the Budget Board.
The Budget Board approved the allocation with a unanimous vote.