The Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority reversed course Friday, voting 5-2 to indefinitely postpone seeking requests for proposals to operate the Tulsa Jail.
The vote comes two weeks after the authority agreed to initiate the process of creating a request for proposals.
The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office operates the jail. The RFP that was being prepared would have sought bids from both private and public entities, including the Sheriff’s Office.
The authority voted to begin the RFP process after more than a year of haggling among trustees over jail financing, operations and oversight.
Friday’s special meeting of the authority was requested by Trustee Jeri Moberly. She began the meeting by proposing that the RFP process be delayed a year and that the authority use that time to have an operational audit of the jail conducted.
“An operational audit would answer the questions regarding the efficiency, economy and safety of the operations at the jail,” Moberly said. “While this is an expensive process, we can’t afford not to do it.”
Moberly, who initially supported seeking the RFP, said she had a change of mind after hearing that detention officers were leaving their jobs because they were unsure of what the future might hold.
Michelle Robinette with the Sheriff’s Office told trustees that seven employees had left their jobs since the authority decided to create the RFP.
Another 11 have applied for jobs at the Rogers County Jail and 15 to 20 more were looking for jobs elsewhere, Robinette said.
“Their morale has been taken away,” Robinette said. “Now they are confused, they are upset and they are worried.”
Trustees John Smaligo and Dewey Bartlett voted against the motion to postpone the RFP process.
Smaligo stressed that it was important for the authority to determine what is the most cost-efficient and effective way to operate the jail. Postponing the RFP would only keep jail employees wondering about their future longer, Smaligo said.
“When is it going to be a good time (to go out for an RFP),” Smaligo said. “Are we not going to lose a certain percentage of detention officers whenever we go out for an RFP?”
Moberly’s proposal for an operational audit, meanwhile, was never voted on.
The Criminal Justice Authority is made of three county commissioners and four area mayors or vice mayors. Bartlett is mayor of Tulsa. Moberly is mayor of Owasso. The other trustees are Sands Springs Mayor Mike Burdge; Glenpool Vice-Mayor Momoduo Ceesay; and County Commissioners Karen Keith, Ron Peters and Smaligo.