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Two Oklahoma County officials trade accusations during meeting over jail trust

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A new Oklahoma County commissioner on Wednesday again accused the sheriff of mismanagement, saying at a meeting the jail was improperly being used as a "cash cow" to fund other operations.

"We're giving 'X' amount to the sheriff's office and they're not spending it on the jail," Commissioner Kevin Calvey said. "Numbers don't lie."

Sheriff P.D. Taylor in turn accused Calvey of political grandstanding, saying it is unfortunate the commissioner chose "to just badmouth and sling BS and point fingers" instead of working together to solve the jail problem.

"I had a problem keeping people," he said. "Well, since you've been elected, Mr. Calvey, I really have a problem. They're quitting in droves because they don't know that they're going to have a job tomorrow."

The two officials have been feuding for months but never so publicly. This time, they were speaking before close to 200 people at a meeting that was shown live online.

At issue at the three-hour meeting was whether the county should create a trust to oversee the finances and operation of the aging 13-story jail just west of downtown Oklahoma City. Commissioners put off a decision until May or June to give a committee time to study the issue further.

The sheriff, his deputies and jail detention officers oppose the formation of a trust for a number of reasons. Among their fears is that law enforcement positions will be eliminated so that funding can be diverted to jail operations. Also feared is that detention officers will lose their jobs or county benefits if a trust hires a private company to run the jail.

Several sheriff officers spoke out during the meeting. One complained they were being demonized. Another said, "Shame on you for even considering it."

The sheriff complained during the meeting that county officials have never properly funded the sheriff's office and the jail.

"That's why we're in this mess today," he said.

After the meeting, the sheriff told reporters Calvey is a dangerous person because he doesn't know what he is doing.

"He's got to make a big splash because he's running for U.S. Congress," the sheriff said.

Calvey is a former state representative who has run for Congress twice before. He said he is not running for Congress now. He called the sheriff's personal attacks on him an attempt to divert attention away from the real problem, a mismanaged jail where inmates are beaten.

During the meeting, Calvey said an audit showed the sheriff is spending more than $14 million of his annual budget on non-jail expenses. He said the sheriff is grossly overspending on things like patrolling "all over the county."

Last week, a powerful committee of community leaders and government officials voted overwhelmingly to endorse the creation of a jail trust.

The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council — headed by Thunder owner Clay Bennett — voted 13-0 in favor of a nine-member trust. The sheriff and four others on the council abstained from the vote. The council's executive director suggested Wednesday that creating a trust is a step toward getting public support to build a new jail.

Nolan Clay

Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,... Read more ›

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