Last month, in a shutter-speed vote designed to restrict comment and disenfranchise its most conscientious member, District 1 Commissioner Carrie Blumert, the Oklahoma County Board of Commissioners voted to approve allocation of $34 million in CARES Act funds to the county’s Jail Trust.
District 3 Commissioner Kevin Calvey, who spearheaded the vote, acted abominably not just by denying Blumert a vote for arriving two minutes late, but by pushing an attendee and refusing access for a member of the press.
Even with abundant public outcry over the county commissioners meeting, these amoral public officials show no signs of feeling chastened.
by George Lang, opinion writer for Free Press
On Aug. 31, despite a motion by trustee Francie Ekwerekwu to defer the vote until the trust could itemize improvements to be funded by the CARES Act, the board including Calvey defeated the deferment and voted 8-2 to accept the funding, with only Ekwerekwu and Danny Honeycutt of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office voting against the measure.
What does this mean? In essence, that $34 million does not have to be spent in any particular way. These were funds designated by Congress to be used to blunt the negative economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and yet the money is going to a facility that is never without customers.
As Marty Peercy reported for Free Press, protesters filled the halls and yelled “Calvey resign!” for several minutes as the horseshoe emptied. Jess Eddy, the law student who has vigilantly rallied against Oklahoma County district attorney David Prater’s prosecution of Black Lives Matter, described Calvey as itching for a fight.
“Also, @KevinCalvey was clearly trying to provoke a contact by quickly walking into a crowd of protesters. TWICE!” Eddy tweeted Aug. 31. “And no one touched him. He’s never walked out of the front of the shoe like that, always out of the back.”
Calvey was heavily criticized for pushing Tower Theatre’s Chad Whitehead out the double doors at the previous meeting. What Eddy describes is a man clearly fishing for a false equivalency, a chance to paint protesters as violent and justify himself.
Now, thanks to an irresponsible vote, one that Oklahoma County Treasurer Forrest “Butch” Freeman said could result in a federal audit, the Jail Trust does not have to come up with an itemized list of actions. They could spend the CARES Act funds on weekly pizza parties for the guards, or a bronze bust of Calvey in front of the building.
What continues to bother me about Calvey, other than the fact that he lives way too close to me, is that he was trying to push this through with every dirty trick in his bag — even when he knew he was being watched. Since he was able to secure the CARES Act money with help from henchman Brian Maughan, he was then able to vote, as a member of the Jail Trust, to accept that money. It is almost a perfect object lesson in self-dealing. As the brother said in the early 1970s Connect 4 commercials, “Pretty sneaky, sis!”
This kind of behavior makes me nervous. When people in power act badly with impunity, it is a warning sign of something far worse on the horizon. They either are racing the clock to cram in as much deviance as possible before the clock strikes on them, or because the fix is in, they know, for a fact, that they will get away with all of it.
When I see U.S. Senators James Lankford and Jim Inhofe standing by and not doing anything about the lawless and enfeebled President of the United States of America, I worry that they know that all the feckless enablers of Donald Trump, including themselves, will be richly rewarded for their inattention.
This means that we must all be Jess Eddy in these times. No matter how much they threaten, protests and responsible reporting must not stop. When The Washington Post changed its motto to “Democracy Dies in Darkness” at the beginning of the Trump era, the newspaper was more prescient than, I think, any of its brass realized at the time.
They were absolutely right. And right now, it is people like Kevin Calvey who have their hands on the light switch.
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