The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, or Jail Trust, held a meeting Monday that took over three hours to discuss the presence of ICE agents in the Jail, as well as to allocate CARES funds for what is being referred to as COVID amelioration in the Jail.
And, as has become expected, a number of activists and protestors attended the meeting to voice their displeasure with the Trust.
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At Monday’s meeting, the activists were not limited to the same group who has been attending in recent months. The meeting also drew a cadre of pro-ICE activists, some sporting Trump branded hats, coats, and shirts.
When the item pertaining to the presence of ICE (Immigration, Customs Enforcement) in the County Jail was moved to the front of the meeting, Chairperson Tricia Everest invited public comment. Many people signed up to speak, most imploring the Trust to remove agents of the immigration agency from the jail.
Some pro-ICE activists also spoke, underscoring their belief in “law and order” and their support for all law enforcement agencies, including ICE.
One person, identifying herself simply as “Tasha,” stated that she was there on behalf of hundreds of supporters who weren’t at the meeting because they had to work.
At one tense moment, two young men from opposite sides of the issue began cursing each other.
One, wearing a Make America great Again hat and wearing a Trump campaign mask, left his seat to confront the other. Sheriff’s Deputies intervened and led the first young man to the other side of the room, but did not remove anybody from the gallery.
Throughout public comment on the topic, some protestors kept up near-constant shouting and talking over the designated speaker and members of the Trust.
After public comment had been exhausted, Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu moved the item in question. Everest asked if the item would be better served to be broken into two motions, one for the removal of ICE agents from the jail, the second to no longer observe 48-hour ICE detainers. Ekwerekwu stated that since the ICE detainers violate the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, she did not think the Trust would need to take a separate vote to “not commit criminal acts.” Ekwerekwu moved the item as one.
In the discussion, former Oklahoma City manager, Vice-Chair Jim Couch stated that he was unsure of voting on the matter until they had received a legal opinion on their authority to make such decisions.
The vote was called. Couch and Trustee M.T. Berry both abstained. District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey and former Lt. Governor Todd Lamb each voted against the measure. Ekwerekwu was joined in voting yes by Danny Honeycutt on behalf of Sheriff P.D. Taylor, Tricia Everest, and Sue Ann Arnall.
The item failed in spite of a 4-2 majority. This was the same outcome the last time the Trust voted on this issue due to one provision in the Trust’s indenture calling for five affirmative votes for a motion to pass.
Protest and Disruption
When the Trust attempted to move on to the next item on the agenda, protestors continued to shout without relenting. A member of the Trust moved that the body recess to Executive Session.
Deputies were asked to clear the room for the Session, but as the protest continued and gained steam, the Trust chose to hold the executive session in private chambers instead of the boardroom. Throughout the executive session the protestors could be heard in the boardroom and the hallway outside.
Monday’s Executive Session was called for the Trust to discuss the lawsuit Trustee Kevin Calvey had filed against the Trust. As Calvey is a petitioner in the suit as well as the attorney of record, he was left out of the discussion. He left through a back door and returned when the Executive Session was over.
After the thirty minute executive session, the Trust returned and voted on actions to take related to the suit. One action will be to retain outside counsel to represent the Trust against the lawsuit.
No Bid Contract
As Free Press reported previously, the Trust has chosen to undertake a no-bid contract with out of state construction firm Harrison, Walker, and Harper, LP. That firm will be designated as the Design-Build contractor for renovations to the jail in the amount of $6,600,000 of CARES funds.
Greg Williams, Trust CEO, reassured concerned members of the public that all subcontractors will be from the Oklahoma City area.
The Trust also approved the expenditure of $1,500,000 of CARES funds to upgrade and expand the Jail’s Video-phone equipment so that people incarcerated at the jail may attend hearings and receive other services without being transported from the jail. This is considered COVID amelioration as those incarcerated will not have to be transported from the jail, where over 300 people have tested positive for the virus so far.
Honeycutt, of the Sheriff’s Office, asked if the CARES money could be spent on agencies that were not the County. He referred to a plan to include video-calling portals at Palomar (where Everest is Chair of the Board), the Diversion Hub (a project of Trustee Sue Ann Arnall’s Arnall Family Foundation), and Northcare.
Jim Couch said that he thought that was a valid question. He then went on to say that they should vote on the money now, then get an opinion from Counsel on whether they could use the money that way or not.
The item passed with a 5 person majority.
The Trust will hold a special meeting on Friday, October 23 at 1:30 p.m. via teleconference.
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