The Frontier

Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo has renewed his push to charge the city of Tulsa a flat rate to hold its inmates in the Tulsa Jail, saying he believes the city never intended to sign a jail agreement with the county.

Smaligo’s proposal calls for the city to pay approximately $3.8 million annually, or about five times what the city has budgeted for that purpose.

“I think it is the only proposal that I have seen that actually gets us anywhere near where we ought to be as far as making sure the city of Tulsa is being charged appropriate costs,” Smaligo said after Tuesday’s commissioners meeting.

Smaligo has raised the proposal several times in the 11 months the city and county have been negotiating a new jail agreement. The old one expired June 30. Smaligo said he decided to raise the issue again in part because the city has yet to agree to a deal.” The city of Tulsa has clearly been stalling  us out on these negotiations,” Smaligo said. “I believe they have not been interested and are not interested in actually signing a jail agreement.”


County Commissioner John Smaligo

The commissioner noted that the county has signed jail agreements with other municipalities and the federal government since contract negotiations began with the city last year.

“There is only one reason (we have no deal): It’s because it’s the city of Tulsa we’re dealing with,” Smaligo said.

Smaligo’s flat fee is based on Broken Arrow’s population and bookings and what the city spends to operate its jail.

Broken Arrow has a population of approximately 100,000, Smaligo said, and spends approximately $1 million a year to operate its jail.

Given that Tulsa’s population is approximately 400,000, it would be appropriate to charge the city of Tulsa four times that amount, Smaligo said.

The city of Tulsa, meanwhile, books about six times as many inmates a year into its jail as Broken Arrow books into its jail.

For nearly two months, city and county officials have said they are close to an agreement that would have the city pay $69 per inmate per day – or about $1 million to $1.6 million a year to hold its inmates in the Tulsa Jail.

Commissioner Ron Peters said after the meeting that the city and county are still working to resolve one issue: When is a municipal inmate considered released from the jail?

The city would like the release to become official when the Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail, receives release papers on an inmate. The Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, has argued that it has no way to accurately track releases and instead has been basing its billing on when an inmate actually leaves the jail.

To address the disagreement, the county is considering purchasing software that would enable it to better track the releases.

Even if an agreement with the city is reached, it is possible Smaligo’s proposal could be phased in over time, Peters said.

“I think anything is possible at this point,” Peters said. “The flat rate would certainly alleviate a lot of bookkeeping issues.”

Tulsa City Manager Jim Twombly, who has led the city’s negotiations with the county, declined to comment on Smaligo’s proposal or his assertion that the city has had no interest in reaching an agreement. But he echoed Peters’ sentiment that a deal is close.

“We continue to plug away,” Twombly said. “I feel very confident we’ll get something worked out.”

The Board of County Commissioners has sole authority to set the costs to hold inmates at the Tulsa Jail.

The final details of the proposed flat rate are being worked out and could be voted on in the next few weeks, according to county officials.