By KEVIN CANFIELD
Citing what they claim to be improper funding practices at the Tulsa Jail, three area mayors – including Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett – want the proposed 2016 jail budget discarded in favor of a temporary funding resolution that would remain in effect until the budgeting process can be overhauled.
A special meeting of the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority will be held at 10 a.m. today in the Tulsa County administration building to discuss the mayors’ requests. The authority — which oversees jail funding — had been scheduled to vote on the jail budget Wednesday afternoon.
Sand Springs Mayor Mike Burdge, Owasso Mayor Jeri Moberly and Bartlett outlined their concerns in a lengthy letter to their fellow authority trustees. The seven-person body also includes the three county commissioners — Ron Peters, Karen Keith and John Smaligo — and Momoduo Ceesay of Glenpool.
“We respectfully submit that pursuant to your and our fiduciary duties as trustees, in light of the evidence presented in and accompanying this letter, the … (jail) budget proposal cannot be approved by the TJCCA,” the mayors’ letter states.
The alleged improper budgeting practices outlined in the 40-plus-page letter include:
— Lack of county oversight in expenditure of jail sales tax revenue
— Jail-related personnel paid with jail sales tax revenue in violation of state law
— County and Sheriff’s Office concealing questionable uses of jail sales tax revenue
— TCCJA failing to review jail expenditures
As previously reported by The Frontier, inmate trust funds from the jail have gone missing and the Sheriff’s Office has refused to release related documents showing how much or whether it took action as a result. State auditors pointed out the lack of accountability over the trust funds year after year.
An analysis by The Frontier also found that Sheriff Stanley Glanz had paid at least $700,000 out of the jail fund to pay legal fees. The county has been named in an avalanche of civil rights lawsuits linked to events in the jail.
The mayors have set themselves up for a last-minute showdown with their fellow trustees regarding how to fund the jail, a decision that must be made before fiscal year 2016 begins July 1.
The timing is complicated further by the fact that the city of Tulsa and Tulsa County are still without a contract to hold municipal inmates in the jail. Bartlett has pushed the authority to scrutinize jail spending more closely.
Smaligo, meanwhile, has gone on the record saying the city has never intended to sign a jail deal. He is proposing that the county charge the city a flat fee of approximately $4 million a year, about five times what the city has budgeted for that service.