Activists file lawsuit against Oklahoma County Jail Trust for allegedly violating Open Meeting Act

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A group of local activists has filed a lawsuit against the Oklahoma County Jail Trust for allegedly violating the Open Meeting Act during a virtual meeting on Monday. That meeting was postponed and took place Wednesday afternoon.

“The meeting should have been adjourned right when it started,” David Hooten, Oklahoma County Clerk, told KFOR.

Hooten is talking about Monday’s Jail Trust meeting that was plagued with audio issues.

“We’re redoing all of our sound and cameras in the room, so that we can accommodate an 18-member board a specific way they want it to be seated, and they aren’t done installing it yet. So, we were having to use a backup system and it failed,” said Hooten. “It was just a comedy of errors.”

This was the first ever Jail Trust meeting that was solely virtual, with no one appearing in person in the usual meeting room at the county’s court annex.

“There was such an endless loop running. There was a lag time. People couldn’t hear,” Hooten said.

When audio was working, one of Hooten’s employees can be heard having an outburst, saying “shut up” when a woman was talking during public comment.

“He’s been handled. It was handled very quickly and he felt terrible about it,” said Hooten. “I also did apologize personally to Ms. Laws and that it did offend her and she accepted my apology.”

The meeting was ultimately postponed and rescheduled to Wednesday afternoon and this time, the room was open with an in-person option for public comment.

Some trustees appeared virtually and a few of them showed up in person.

“You guys can’t even manage to abide by the law and conduct your meeting in a timely and expedited fashion where we had to reschedule this meeting,” Sara Bana, a local activist, said during public comment.

“There’s no technical difficulties. It’s because you’re terrified of the people,” Christopher Johnston, a local activist, said.

Also on Wednesday, Commissioner Carrie Blumert, District 1, announced she sent a letter to the Jail Trust earlier this week, asking for an action plan for improving conditions at the jail.

“Those items that I included in that letter are no secret. They are issues that most of the community is aware of and issues that I know the Jail Trust is aware of,” Blumert told KFOR.

Some of those issues include a critical staff shortage, bed bugs in cells, black mold in cells, inmates not receiving showers and not receiving their meals on time.

Most of those issues were spelled out in an OSDH inspection report last month.

“I made it very clear when I voted a few weeks ago to keep the trust in place, that if we didn’t see major improvements within the next few months, that I will consider looking at that again and figuring out is this really the best group to run the jail,” Blumert said.

On Tuesday, a group of local activists filed a lawsuit against the Jail Trust, claiming they violated the Open Meeting Act during their meeting on Monday.

KFOR spoke with Trustee Francie Ekwerekwu on Monday, who also agreed that they did violate the Open Meeting Act.

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