In a surprise turn of events on Wednesday, a meeting of the Oklahoma County Budget Board was summarily canceled at the request of District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey without notice.
The meeting was to begin planning on how to spend $20 million returned to the county after Commissioners gave $34 million to the Jail Trust. The money must be spent by the end of December or it has to be returned to the federal government.
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The Budget Board meeting was originally scheduled by District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert and County Treasurer Butch Freeman. Then, as of Wednesday afternoon, County Clerk David B. Hooten had canceled the meeting.
When reached for comment, Hooten’s office said that the meeting had been canceled at the request of the Chair of the Board, Calvey, because the Chair did not schedule the meeting.
While the Chair typically schedules meetings with the County Clerk’s office, state statute provides that two members of the Board may schedule a meeting legally (Title 19, Section 1407).
The original meeting agenda included an item for discussion of use of $20 million in CARES Act funds to assist small businesses and nonprofits who have been affected by COVID-19 this year.
Readers may remember that the Board of County Commissioners voted two to one to transfer approximately $34 million to the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust).
Then, at Monday’s meeting of the Jail Trust, the Trustees voted to accept a budget for use of approximately $15 million and to return the surplus to the County for reallocation.
On Thursday morning, Blumert tweeted that Calvey had canceled the meeting, “which he does NOT have the authority to do.” Blumert continued, “I am so tired & so disappointed.”
Calls to Hooten’s office on Wednesday afternoon were answered by assistants. Free Press was told that the meeting was canceled because Calvey did not schedule the meeting.
An email sent to Hooten at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday received a reply at 10:22 a.m. on Thursday. In that email, Hooten stated, “The chairman asked me to cancel it. I have asked the DA [David Prater] if the Chair has that power.” From his statement, it appears that Hooten canceled the meeting at Calvey’s request without checking with the DA on the legality of such a move.
Free Press attempted to contact the DA on Thursday afternoon to ask their opinion or if they even planned to weigh in on this situation. As of press time, the DA’s office had not answered nor returned any calls from Free Press.
Some constituents who spoke with Hooten on Thursday said that Hooten explained that he was “just doing his job.” Hooten also reportedly stated that his office was facing a COVID infection and that he was short handed in the office.
As of 5:00 p.m. on Thursday evening, no replacement meeting has been scheduled.
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