Oklahoma County commissioners vote to approve jail trust

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OKLAHOMA CITY – After weeks of debate, three Oklahoma County commissioners voted to approve a controversial jail trust. The idea behind the trust is to transparently dole out funding to maintain and staff the jail. Instead of going through only the sheriff, those decisions would be made with the sheriff, a commissioner, and several citizens. “It will have citizen oversight predominantly with the sheriff, and then Commissioner Calvey from the commissioners will round out the nine-member board,” said Commissioner Brian Maughan. Commissioner Kevin Calvey was nominated by fellow commissioner Maughan, and Calvey seconded his own nomination. County Commissioner Carrie Blumert voiced her opposition to Calvey’s appointment. “Commissioner Calvey has a volatile relationship with our sheriff. This is pretty well known and I felt that to send that relationship into the trust meetings, and to be the representative of our board, I did not feel comfortable doing that,” said Blumert. Blumert originally nominated herself, reminding the board she has a background in mental health and public health. Commissioners say because of state statute, only one commissioner can serve on the trust. Those nine trust members will monitor all components of the jail. One big question everyone is hoping to get answered is who will run the jail? “They’ll set their own bylaws, they’ll elect their own chair and they will begin the process of deciding who ultimately will run the jail,” Maughan said. “It could be from bringing in a private company to operate the jail all the way to business as usual and the sheriff continues to operate the jail,” said Sheriff Taylor. The sheriff hopes that responsibility stays with his office. “I hope the end result of this trust is that they leave it in the sheriff’s hands,” he said. Another major concern is funding. “I’ve always been in favor, I’ve never opposed a jail trust, but to have a successful jail trust you have to identify permanent funding,” said Sheriff Taylor. For months, employees of the sheriff’s office spoke out in opposition to the plan. “To say that we are nervous about the future of the sheriff’s office will forever be changed is an understatement,” said Sgt. Paul Harmon, an investigator with the sheriff’s office and a member of the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office Fraternal Order of Police 155.
However, Maughan says that it is the first priority of the county to maintain the jail, while the sheriff’s office is supposed to maintain security and patrol in unincorporated areas. “The public wants to know exactly how much we need, and why do we need that much, and where is it going to be spent?” Maughan said. “And once that’s disclosed, I think if it obviously mandates it, needs it, then they’ll get it.” The nine trust members have not had a meeting yet, it’s expected to be in the next few weeks. Commissioners say those meetings will be open to the public. Here is a list of the members of the newly created Trust: Ben Brown Todd Lamb Francie Ekwerekwu Tricia Everest Sue Ann Arnall MT Berry Jim Couch Sheriff PD Taylor Kevin Calvey

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