Two candidates for Oklahoma County Commissioner District 2 engaged in a public debate Thursday in Oklahoma City.
Incumbent Brian Maughan (R) and challenger Spencer Hicks (D) angled to show voters why they would be best for the seat.
Hosted by NonDoc and News 9, the debate took place at Farmers Public Market where a half-filled crowd attended.
Tres Savage, Editor-in-Chief of NonDoc, and Aaron Brilbrek, State Capital reporter for News 9, moderated the event. The debate proceeded with opening statements, three rounds of questions, and closing statements. You can watch it in full on News 9’s Facebook page.
With less than a month left until the November elections, Free Press will be providing coverage of races in the Oklahoma City metro area in depth. By doing so, we hope that you, the reader, gain a better understanding of the choices you will have on November 3.
Hicks won the coin toss and started off the debate with a statement giving the general description of his personal background and what he plans to accomplish as county commissioner.
“I am running because the first thing our government needs to do is be transparent,” Hicks said.
Maughan then proceeded by saying “I’m running again because I want to continue the movement that we’ve been slowly getting together and making a big impact at Oklahoma County, and that takes some time.”
He went on to say that he is just now starting to work with the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, which officially began in July this year, and is trying to make it more stable.
Maughan, who has been in office since 2008, highlighted some of his other current projects such as the Kickapoo Turnpike, which will partially open next week.
When asked what he considers to be the most important part of the county commissioner’s job, Maugh said litigation is an unexpected part of the job, at face value, that he considers a crucial aspect.
“There [were] a lot of frivolous court cases that had historically been handed down to the county commissioners,” Maughn explained. “It was sort of like the equivalent of putting a legal gun to your temple. They just figured that we would automatically settle.”
Hicks then responded to the same question and echoed similar sentiments. However, his answer eventually developed into a showcase of Maughan’s shortcomings as county commissioner.
“Anytime the county has to pay out a lawsuit, that’s a tax increase on us,” stated Hicks. “There’s no accountability, there’s no transparency with how any of this works with the jail trust. The jail trust should’ve been there as a shield for the taxpayer, it’s not right now.”
To clarify, the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, more formally known as the Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, was a highly anticipated topic.
Commissioners Maughan and Calvey received flack a few months ago for approving over $30 million of CARES Act funds to head to the jail trust in less than a minute.
With an abrupt ending, the moderator asked Hicks how his personal experience qualifies him for the position. As the personal assistant to former Governor Brad Henry, Hicks believes that he has experience in working in a bipartisan manner.
“Sometimes, not everybody is going to get everything they want, but everybody should get something they want and [in] county government we don’t have that right now,” said Hicks.
Maughan was asked what he was most proud of in his 12 years of work and cited his SHINE (Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere) program—which is an alternative sentencing program for low offenders—and the jail trust.
Maughan said his priorities for the county budget were halfway reached as the jail trust took the jail’s budget away from the sheriff’s office. He also cited maintaining the courthouse and the county commissioner’s office.
Hicks’ main budget priority was infrastructure, meanwhile, the conversation still turned back to the jail trust.
“The jail trust doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do right now. I feel like Oklahoma County should do how Tulsa did it. The trust should have a dedicated source of funding that the voters get to choose,” Hicks explained.
Oklahoma County Jail
Maughan stood by his decision to support the jail trust throughout the debate because he asserted that the trust still needed time to go into full effect.
And he mentioned that people would not even be able to publicly convene and protest if it weren’t for the jail trust since the sheriff’s office previously controlled the jail’s funds.
Hicks expressed that he thought the jail trust was inefficient and Maughan responded by asking how a new jail could even be paid for.
“That should be up to the voters. In [Maughan’s] 12 years he has not offered any solutions to the jail,” Hicks responded.
Maughan then brought up that in the past there have been propositions to build a jail in which few supported because there are no additional tax revenues to maintain it.
“There’s no political will for a forever tax for a jail. This building is younger than most of the school buildings that we send our students to,” Maughan said.
The conversation then turned into a heated feud in which Maughan defended himself against Hicks highlights of the county commissioner’s mismanagement of the jail trust.
The CARES Act Funds
“How would you want that [CARES Act money] be spent,” the moderator asked.
Hicks wanted most of the money to be spent on economic development and helping those who face rent eviction in the county.
Maughan said that even with the $2 million left, there have been no proposals put forth for community efforts.
SH: Ending of Debate
The rest of the debate followed with exchanges about whether the county should support ICE agents having access to the county jail, the investigation into Maughan’s SHINE organization, and closing statements.
Voters will decide the race in the November 3 General Election.
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