“Take over the jail,” Oklahoma County sheriff wants to hand over jail operations to trust

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) –  The Oklahoma County Sheriff has issued a stern message to the Jail Trust, giving it a deadline for its takeover of the Oklahoma County Jail.

On Wednesday, Oklahoma County Sheriff PD Taylor sent a letter to the Oklahoma County Jail Trust that said on Jan. 1, he intends to turn over full operation of the jail to it.

“Take over the jail. Do it. Take the responsibility and the liability no later than January 1st,” Taylor said Thursday.

The demand comes less than six months after the Oklahoma County Commissioners formed the Oklahoma County Jail Trust. Since then, Taylor said the trust hasn’t provided enough of a plan for current employees to feel safe, and doesn’t feel confident he can continue to run the jail safely.

He also expressed frustration after he said he and his staff have been blamed for a situation they walked into, rather than recognized for the work they’ve done.

Taylor said the jail needs 600 employees for it to be run correctly but only has a budget for 420. Since the jail trust was formed, he said he’s been bleeding employees, losing over 100 in the past three months over concerns about their benefits.

“They feel like if they retire now, they’ll be able to keep their county healthcare benefits and that’s very important to them,” he said.

District 2 County Commissioner Brian Maughan said he sympathizes with the loss of employees, but felt blindsided by the sheriff’s message.

“I’m not even certain that it’s constitutional, that he can just decide he’s going to abruptly abandon his responsibilities at the jail until the Jail Trust invokes the right to take over the jail,” Maughan said.

The trust has just started going through applications for a jail administrator, and Maughan said he doesn’t want the trust to take over operations until they’ve ironed out the proper procedures and staffing requirements.

“It’s very childish behavior,” Maughan said. “If he wanted to get out of the jail, he could signal to the trust, ‘I’m ready for you to do it, and I’m ready to help work with you to do so.’”

Sheriff Taylor said he’s just taking the lead, moving forward with what needs to happen sooner rather than later.

“I’m not saying I’m going to walk away,” the sheriff said. “I’m following the lead of Commissioner Calvey that says they’re going to take over January 1st. That’s why I picked that date.”

The sheriff hasn’t said definitively what he will do Jan. 1 if the Jail Trust is not ready to take over the operation of the jail.

The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 155 released the following statement:

“The OCSO Lodge 155 would like to publicly announce our full support of Sheriff PD Taylor’s statement at his press conference on October 24, 2019. We, like Sheriff Taylor, believe 100% that it is time for Commissioner Calvey to step up to the plate and be a leader rather than an irrational self serving politician making misleading statements about the sheriff’s office and our members. He has publicly disparaged our members many times since he has been elected. He and District 2 Commissioner Brian Maughan, in their rush to create a jail trust, have failed to work with Sheriff PD Taylor in good faith, have failed to lead the county out of potential crisis, failed to provide proper funding for the sheriff to operate the jail and in turn created this crisis, a very dangerous situation for our members and non members who work in the jail. We believe that their failures have in-fact perpetuated the crisis at the jail for their personal political gain. OCSO Lodge 155 holds Commissioners Calvey and Maughan responsible for the safety and well-being of our members working in the jail, the other jail employees and the inmates.

Sheriff Taylor commented in his press conference that the building is the responsibility of the Commissioners. They have failed in their duties to provide the funding for the building and its successful operation. They have allowed this situation to become the crisis it is today. Commissioner Calvey prefers showboating and grandstanding. He is more interested in making false and inaccurate public statements and moving up the political ladder than leading the
county and working with Sheriff Taylor. He has made that apparent since the moment he took office. We are asking the citizens of Oklahoma County to contact your county elected officials and tell them that you are tired of politics as usual. You are tired of Commissioner Calvey and his lack of true leadership putting FOP members, other employees of jail and inmates in harm’s way for political gain. Tell the other elected officials and jail trust members to hold Commissioner Calvey accountable to honestly work with the jail trust to once and for all fix the county jail.”

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