The Jail Trust met Monday to take up reassuring jail employees of their job security, revenue and budget items, and a job description for a future Jail Administrator.
While the meeting started with generous spirits all around, as the agenda items passed, the tension between the Sheriff’s Office and other trustees began to rise.
At the last meeting of the Jail Trust, the trustees passed a resolution to reassure the employees of the jail that their jobs and benefits would stay the same when the administration of the jail is transferred to the Trust. The previous resolution’s language didn’t include all employees at the jail. The new resolution includes language to correct that, as well as changing the previous resolution to say that benefits will be “the same or better.”
The resolution passed replacing and superseding the previous resolution.
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The Trustees also agreed to make plans to maintain the employees of the jail as employees of the County when the Trust takes over operations.
Then the Trustees voted to create a Memorandum of Understanding to “ensure Jail employees receive uninterrupted health and retirement benefits” during and after the transition of authority over the jail.
Yes, I agree, this all seems incredibly redundant. But wait, it gets weirder.
Job Security Redux
After the Trust voted to reassure the employees of the jail that they had job security, the body heard an item for jail employees to express concern about their job security.
Nope, I’m not kidding.
Danny Honeycutt, General Counsel for the Sheriff’s Office, sat on the Trust for this meeting as designee for Sheriff Taylor. He introduced an item to allow some employees of the Sheriff’s Office to address the Trust.
First was Mike Durbin, the Vice President of the County’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police. Durbin spoke about Deputies being scared of losing their jobs. He said that most employees of the jail live paycheck to paycheck.
Then Sgt. Tara Harden, Mental Health supervisor at the jail, spoke at great length to the Trust. She said that in the last six weeks 59 employees have left their employment.
Sgt. Harden described the feelings of the employees at the jail as those of children whose parents are going through a contentious divorce. She further described the potential hiring of a jail administrator as one of those parents getting remarried.
It grew strange to this reporter’s mind.
Next, Sgt. Steven Brewer came to speak about his own concerns about his future employment security. He asked if the Trust would be able to commission officers, and he said that his CLEET certification required a promissory note that he would complete three years of service as a peace officer. He wondered if he would lose that status and have to repay the CLEET certification cost.
“A lot of us have to work multiple jobs to keep a roof over our heads,” Brewer claimed.
Last a Lieutenant Shaw came to the podium and said that he could only echo the concerns of his peers who had spoken before him.
Trustee Senator Ben Brown spoke up to say that he thought the Trust had made every possible effort to reassure the employees that they had job security. He asked, rhetorically, “Who is stirring the pot?”
Trustee Sue Ann Arnall addressed the chair to ask if the Trust was able at this time to legally make any more concrete reassurances. The chair confirmed that they were not, as the Trust does not in fact have authority over the operations of the jail currently.
Honeycutt, on behalf of the Sheriff’s Office, brought an item related to outstanding vendor contract bids.
Currently, many of the vendor contracts are on a month-to-month agreement until such a time as the Trustees may review and approve those bids for long-term contracts.
Honeycutt’s request was to approve these outstanding contracts for the remainder of the year since it will be some time before the Trust takes over. He said that $100,000 a month is being left on the table.
Tensions rose as Sen. Brown asked Honeycutt how he arrives at that dollar amount and Honeycutt responded with, “I add.”
Brown pushed back, asking what were the dollar amounts leading to that figure. Honeycutt said that he didn’t want to try to use specific numbers.
“But you used one,” Brown replied.
Honeycutt had previously moved the item. At this point, Brown moved to table the item indefinitely, a motion that supersedes other motions. District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey seconded the motion and it passed, acrimony notwithstanding.
A job description for the potential Jail Administrator has been drafted and was discussed.
Trustee Frances Ekwerekwu moved to amend the job description to include language about creating a humane environment for persons who are incarcerated at the jail. She said she wanted the job description to set the tone for a new administrator to focus on the welfare of people in the jail.
Calvey asked if the amended language could include the welfare of “inmates and employees of the jail.” Ekwerekwu agreed and the item was passed with Honeycutt abstaining.
The Trustees agreed that with an application deadline of September 30, they would be able to review applications during an executive session on October 7.
Calvey brought an item for consideration to request the Oklahoma County Budget Board to reserve some of the Sheriff’s Office’s annual budget for Jail operations. His suggestion was that the portion of the Sheriff’s budget that would go toward jail operations would be set aside so that when the Trust takes over there are operational funds already available.
Honeycutt asked Calvey what he had done to make sure this action was lawful. Calvey said that this was something that has been done in other areas of the county and that is currently being done in county affairs.
Honeycutt and Calvey exchanged words. Honeycutt claimed that Calvey’s questioning of the Sheriff’s handling of budgetary issues amounted to a constant impugning of the integrity of the Sheriff’s Office.
Calvey retorted that he wasn’t impugning anything. As he explained his perspective on the budget Honeycutt attempted to interrupt and was met with, “Let me finish,” from the County Commissioner.
Chairperson Tricia Everest asked if this item could be deferred until the next meeting. Calvey asked for the expert opinion of County Clerk David Hooten who explained that the budget could be reopened without difficulty. Calvey agreed to defer the item.
The Trust will meet again on September 23.
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