On Wednesday afternoon, the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority met for two hours to make up for an illegal meeting held Monday.
Before Monday’s meeting, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Coalition Against People Abuse (OCAPA) held a brief press conference regarding a suit that has been filed against the County for their actions on Monday.
The Trust then met and handled all orders of business from the abandoned meeting agenda for the previous meeting. The Trust renewed its agreement with County Clerk David B. Hooten to act as Secretary of the Trust. The Trust went on to hear reports from the Jail CEO Greg Williams and agreed to hire a consultant at an amount not to exceed $20,000.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, Christopher Johnston, spokesman for the Oklahoma Coalition Against People Abuse, briefed the press about a lawsuit filed in the District Court on Tuesday by Michael Washington. Washington is a local activist known for his charismatic performances at City Council and County meetings. Washington is also known for filing lawsuits pro se against local governments.
Johnston said that the lawsuit stemmed from the violations of the Open Meetings Act, Open Records Act, and other constitutional violations created by the Trust’s and County Clerk’s negligence and incompetence.
During Monday’s embarrassing and unprofessional meeting – when many members of the public and the press were kept from accessing the proceedings in person and virtually – the Trust voted to recess until such a time as the “technological problems” were solved and no longer prohibited the body from compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
On Wednesday, the Trust reconvened at 3:00 p.m. Trustees Sue Ann Arnall, Francie Ekwerekwu, and Sheriff Tommie Johnson, III were all in person at the Courthouse Annex for the meeting. Other Trustees joined virtually to mixed effect.
After calling the meeting to order, Chair Tricia Everest said that all items of the agenda were the same as the agenda for Monday.
One formal bit of business before the Trust on Wednesday was a memorandum of understanding between the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) on behalf of the County Clerk, and the Trust. The County Clerk, David B. Hooten, in his role as Clerk also performs the functional duties of the Secretary of the Trust.
On Wednesday the Trust approved the MOU at a rate of compensation of $1800 per month, or $21,600 annually.
During the discussion of the MOU, local activist Sara Bana asked the Trustees what would be done to solve the tension between the Clerk’s Office and members of the Trust. She specifically called out members of Hooten’s staff who could be heard during Monday’s meeting saying “Shut up,” while Adriana Laws spoke.
Neither Trustees nor Clerk’s staff responded to Bana’s comments.
The MOU passed unanimously.
David Parker is the former director of the Tulsa County Jail. He has been in discussions with CEO Greg Williams and some members of the Trust since the Trust took over the Detention Center last July.
Parker’s management and programs at the Tulsa Jail have been much lauded by some members of the Trust, including Williams and Sue Ann Arnall.
Williams explained to Trustees that Parker had no desire to return to working in a jail or a prison, but rather wanted to pursue his own private interests. In spite of, or perhaps because of that, Parker has agreed to provide a consulting role with the Jail.
The Trust had before them an agreement for consulting services at a rate of $110 for 160 hours.
Sheriff Johnson expressed ethical concerns about open bidding, asking if the Trust had considered any other experts before approaching Parker. He asked how Parker’s investment in solutions could be measured.
Arnall, for her part, personally vouched for Parker, who she says she has known him for a number of years. She said he is a man of character.
The Trust voted in favor of hiring the consultant, with only the Sheriff voting against.
During public comment on the hiring of a consultant, local business owner and candidate for State Democratic Party Chair, Sean Cummings addressed Everest.
Cummings said the Trust was falling into the “Consultant Trap,” wherein a public body begins a cycle of paying consultants to learn what they don’t know.
Cummings then read aloud a letter he had written to Everest.
In his letter, Cummings complimented Everest on her many years of public service, calling out specifically her time working with Palomar and her leadership in their efforts. He went on, however, to say that what he has seen under Everest’s leadership of the Jail Trust is disturbing.
Cummings listed unsafe overcrowding during a labor shortage, bedbug and other infestations, no-bid contracts to out of state firms, un-transparent CARES Act spending, a recent hostage situation, and now an Open Meetings violation.
Cummings concluded by saying that while he likes what Everest has done for the city, he doesn’t feel like she is suited for the job of chairing the Trust.
“We haven’t seen incremental improvement,” Cummings said. “I humbly ask for your resignation.”
CEO Greg Williams gave his usual report on the operations of the Jail, saying, as always, that staffing and retention are issues of paramount importance.
Williams said that recently the Jail has hired 14 new recruits, but have also had 9 resignations.
The Detention Center now has a recruitment bonus incentive. When a staff member refers another recruit who works out, the referring staff member receives a cash bonus.
New staff are hired at a rate of $3,001 per month. After 90 days of successful work at the facility, they receive a raise of $123 per month. After a year, they get another raise of $302 per month.
Williams said that in the last seven days, 209 detainees have been tested for COVID 19 and only one person has tested positive.
Since taking over the Jail, they have tested 8,279 detainees with 349 positive cases.
The Jail was vaccinating detainees, primarily with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But, since the CDC and FDA have issued warnings about blood clots in a small portion of vaccinated adults, the Jail has ceased administering the vaccine.
As of April 12, when the Jail stopped administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 930 persons had been vaccinated.
The Jail population count as of Wednesday midday was 1478 with 109 awaiting transportation to the Department of Corrections.
The Jail Trust will meet again on May 17, at 1:00 p.m.
Last Updated April 21, 2021, 8:42 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor