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Cleveland County sheriff says department has not received funding public voted on

NORMAN, Okla. – The Cleveland County Sheriff filed a civil suit against the Board of County Commissioners because he claims his department hasn’t received the proper funding for the jail, which a sales tax is supposed to help provide.

In December of 2008, the citizens of Cleveland County voted and approved a one quarter-cent sales tax to finance maintenance and operation expenses at the Dwayne Beggs Detention Center in Norman.

In a civil suit filed by Cleveland County Sheriff Joe Lester, he claims he hasn’t been receiving that money.

According to the suit, “Since 1910, Oklahoma law has required the Board of County Commissioners of each county to bear the expense of operating the constitutionally required jail.”

The sheriff allegedly requested just under $7 million dollars for jail operations in 2012 and then made similar requests every year since. He claims he never received those funds.

The suit says, “The plaintiff anticipates a shortfall of $1,105,000 for payroll, monthly bills, maintenance and upkeep for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 from the funding from the defendant for the detention center.”

The sheriff also claims in order to keep operations going, he’s been forced to transfer $350,000 in funds from the sheriff operation account to the jail account.

In the suit, Sheriff Lester says the board gave no valid excuse for withholding the funds.

We were unable to reach the commissioners at this time for comment.

We reached out to Sheriff Lester for comment.

He referred us to his attorney who said he won’t comment because he doesn’t think it’s “ethical to comment on pending litigation.”