4 minute read

The Oklahoma County Jail will be controlled by a jail trust in the future. One commissioner speculated that the trust will start meeting in the fall.

The decision for the trust was made by a unanimous vote of Oklahoma County Commissioners Brian Maughan, Kevin Calvey, and Carrie Blumert.

The Jail has had serious problems with design and workmanship since it opened in 1991.

In a divided vote, the BOCC chose Calvey to be their representative to the trust.

Each of the commissioners made citizen appointments to the trust according to the trust provisions.

Sheriff reacts

Oklahoma County Sheriff P.D. Taylor talked with Free Press after the vote.

“It’s not a positive move,” said Taylor. “I knew this was coming. I’m very concerned about it just like the FOP.”

The Fraternal Order of Police, Oklahoma County Chapter, represents the Sheriff’s employees. They have voiced open concern about the trust idea fearing current employees could be laid off in a privatizing attempt.

“I’m concerned about our employees,” said Taylor. “I hope they all get to keep their jobs. I hope they get to keep their insurance package and their retirement.”

Taylor, who by statute will be on the trust, said “we’ll make this work somehow.”

Funding concerns

He said there are some elements to success other counties in Oklahoma have had with their jail trusts.

“You’ve got to have identified funding. You’ve got to have a good group of trust members in the county. The sheriff runs the jail,” said Taylor.

The funding is what concerns Taylor the most.

He pointed out that Oklahoma County is the only one out of Oklahoma’s 77 counties that does not have a sales tax that helps support the operation of the jail.

jail trust
The Oklahoma County Jail has been criticized from 1991, the fist year it was opened. Brett Dickerson/Okla City Free Press

“Somebody has got to identify funding to operate this jail,” said Taylor. “You haven’t given me enough funding to operate and we’re doing a pretty good job with what we have to work with.”

When we asked if there was enough margin in the low jail budget to produce a profit for a private company to run the jail he said he didn’t think so.

“I’ve been in law enforcement a long time and in my experience with private companies running a county jail is, is that’s their main goal was to make a profit,” said Taylor. There’s no way on earth they can make a profit operating this jail with the condition it’s in.”

Commissioners react

In response to questions about the timing of the trust getting to work, Maughan speculated “…the trust will be fully functional as a body by fall.”

He said issues about other funding mechanisms for the budget year coming up was to happen in the Budget Board meeting later in the day. Beyond that, he was unsure about any discussions about a future sales tax.

Although some have speculated that Commissioner Kevin Calvey wants to privatize the jail, he didn’t seem to be eager to turn out the current employees when we asked if he wants to privatize the jail.

“My personal preference would be that the trust — if it’s not going to be the Sheriff running the jail — but, the trust look at managing it in house, which at least six counties in Oklahoma now do,” said Calvey.

“So the trust, excellent employees, the jail administrator does all that outside the sheriff’s office, but it’s still done through the trust itself rather than contracted out to a private entity.”

Commissioner Brian Maughan was the key on the BOCC who tilted the vote to Calvey being the representative from among the three after Blumert made a motion for herself to be the representative.

Maughan or Calvey did not second the motion so it died. Maughan said that he was up for re-election next and didn’t think he should be the one serving. He made a motion for Calvey to be the representative.

Maughan and Calvey then voted for the motion and Blumert voted against.

“I voted no on Commissioner Calvey because he has an extremely volatile relationship with the Sheriff and for me to vote yes to send that relationship into the trust, was not something I am comfortable with,” Blumert told Free Press.

We asked Maughan why he was so forthright in his going for Calvey for the position instead of Blumert.

“There are members of the community who reached out to me throughout the week and pleaded with me that I will not vote for her,” said Maughan. “I had members reach out to me and beg that I not do it.”

But, Maughan was careful to say that there were others the public was against as well.

“They were forthright in their opposition to me serving,” Maughan said with a slight smile. “So I think all three of us are drawing serious opposition to serve.”


Additions, 5-22-19, 5:56 p.m.: Additional information about Brian Maughan being the one who speculated about funding and timing of the trust beginning to meet was added. The original version did not identify the commissioner who speculated the trust would be fully functional in the fall.