The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority (Jail Trust) held a special meeting on Wednesday for the express purpose of allowing public comment on the topic of an allocation of $34 million to the Trust. 29 speakers got the chance to address the Trust in the two-hour meeting.
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At Monday’s meeting of the Jail Trust, business was largely disrupted by the presence and noise of protesters. The protesters attended Monday in response to an item to request some $36 million in CARES funds from the County. This request was in response by an attempt on County Commissioner Kevin Calvey’s part to transfer that amount of those funds in a previous meeting of the Board of County Commissioners.
Monday’s protest prompted Trust Chair Tricia Everest to propose an extra meeting solely for the purpose of hearing from the public.
But Wednesday, current Board of County Commissioners Chair Kevin Calvey placed not $36 million, but $34 million up for a vote on the agenda. Within one minute of Calvey’s opening the meeting, Calvey and Commissioner Brian Maughan voted to send the CARES Act money to the Jail Trust to be used for repairs and upgrades to the jail. The vote was taken before Commissioner Carrie Blumert even had time to get in her seat.
People who came to comment and participate were left standing, outraged at the parliamentary stunt.
So, protesters were in no charitable mood when the public forum was held by the Jail Trust at 3:00 that afternoon.
Many protesters expressed frustration that this public comment time was a ruse. Protesters said that the vote hastily taken in the morning rendered their public comment irrelevant.
Other protesters aimed their comments at members of the Trust, calling them oligarchs and criminals. Some protesters said they suspect the Trustees of profiting from the Jail.
One speaker at the meeting asked Everest directly if she would promise that the CARES money would not be used for land acquisition or the building of a new jail. Everest shook her head to indicate “no.”
Trustees attended via video, phone, and in person. Only Todd Lamb, appointed by Calvey, never formally joined the meeting, having attended very few meetings so far this year.
Calvey himself attended by phone, according to Everest. Joining Calvey in attending remotely were M.T. Berry, Sue Ann Arnall, and Sen. Ben Brown. Everest, Jim Couch, Francie Ekwerekwu, and Danny Lambert on behalf of Sheriff Taylor all attended in person.
The Trust meets again on Monday, August 24 at 1:00 p.m.
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