Oklahoma County Commissioners approve sending CARES funding to jail trust

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — On Wednesday, the Oklahoma County commissioners voted to allocated $36 million in CARES Act funds to the Oklahoma Criminal Justice Authority, before one of the commissioners was seated to vote.

In a 2-0 vote on Wednesday, during a six minute meeting, the Oklahoma County commissioners voted to allocated roughly $36 million in CARES Act money to the jail trust for COVID-19 response at the jail.

The vote was taken before Commissioner Carrie Blumert was seated. Her chief deputy was in her chair, but didn’t have the chance to vote. 

“You guys are abdicating your responsibility to the citizens of Oklahoma county by moving cares act funding without public comment,” a protester yelled at the commissioners. 

“All those In favor say I,” Commissioners Kevin Calvey, District 3, said. “Motion carries.” 

“Commissioner, I did not vote. I didn’t have an opportunity,” Commissioner Carrie Blumert District 1 chief deputy said. 

“We’re preparing to close,” Calvey said. 

“I have a question on the motion,” Blumert chief deputy said. 

“Chair is preparing to close.” 

“It’s absolutely Bull**** what you guys just did. $40 million and pandemic is going on. We have a housing crisis, people are being evicted from their homes,” another protester yelled. 

About three minutes into the meeting, Blumert walked in to relieve her chief deputy. 

“We jumped to item 32? Was there a reason for that?” she asked, receiving no reply. 

Protesters continued to yell at the commissioners, as public comment has been temporarily suspended since March due to COVID-19. 

After the meeting, News 4 asked Commissioner Calvey why they did not allow enough time for Blumert or her chief deputy to vote. 

“It was 9 o’clock,” he said. “He had plenty of time to vote. And I will say this, I don’t give in to bullies and I don’t give in to, I don’t pay hush money to bullies, especially not with taxpayers dollars. So, I’m not going to give those bullies the money they want.”

That was moments after Commissioner Calvey was caught on camera pushing a protester out of the room before speaking to the media. 

News 4 asked for comment about the encounter, and Calvey sent us the following:

“This is just fabricated outrage from the same group of bullies who illegally brandished firearms on govt property, the same bullies who threatened our families, same bullies who spit on Jail Trust members and shoved bullhorns in our faces, the same bullies who harassed our deputies and other employees, the same bullies who demand taxpayer money for their own pet projects. I don’t give in to bullies.”

“I am really disappointed that that vote was taken this morning and not only was that vote taken this morning, it was taken before I could even walk in the door,” Commissioner Blumert said. “It’s typically common courtesy that if one commissioner is not there, we’ll wait up to two, three, four minutes. We’ve done that for commissioner Calvey many times and we’ve done that for Commissioner Maughan many times.”

Commissioner Blumert said she has several concerns about the millions in CARES Act funding going to the trust. 

“I was not expecting that to happen today. I knew that we had the major item on the agenda, the $36 million, but my hope was that we could defer the item until the public forum happens this afternoon,” she said. “My main issue is that the jail trust never requested this money and so for us to in one fell swoop move all of those cares dollars over to the trust was inappropriate, an inappropriate use of the money and the trust does not have a plan to spend the money.”County Treasurer Butch Freeman has also voiced concerns, worried about federal auditors coming in asking questions about where the dollars went, although Calvey said he’s not worried about that. 

Both commissioners Calvey and Brian Maughan, District 2, feel the jail needs the money, with another inmate saying from COVID complications Wednesday morning. 

“Not only do we have a duty to the inmates in the jail, but our staff of course and then remember, most of these people will be getting out of jail. It’s very likely that any county jail is the largest spreader of COVID within that county and that’s the likely in Oklahoma County,” Calvey said. 

“Why should the public trust us when we shove $36 million of their federal aid to go to the jail without any discussion, any public comment,” Commissioner Blumert said. 

Calvey also addressed why he did not allow public comment during Wednesday’s meeting. 

“We’ve heard two hours of this last Friday, another couple hours at the jail trust meeting this Monday. This was hashed out at the budget board meeting last week. We’ve had ample public comment on this,” he said. 

There was an item on Wednesday’s agenda that would restore public comment to the agendas, with a virtual option. That item was deferred. 

County Clerk David Hooten told News 4 they have been working on the logistics of how that virtual public comment would work. 

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