Friday’s Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority meeting was punctuated by impassioned speeches about the fate of the jail and strained relations with the city but the speakers were preaching largely to the choir.

The authority held a special meeting to discuss whether to seek proposals for a private contractor to operate the jail.

Three of seven Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority trustees are expected to miss Friday’s special meeting to discuss and take possible action on whether to seek requests for proposals for a private contractor to operate the Tulsa Jail.

That leaves four trustees to decide whether to go forward with the RFP, and indications are  they will.

The authority is made up of the three county commissioners, Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, Owasso Mayor Jeri Moberly, Sand Springs Mayor Mike Burdge and Glenpool Vice-Mayor Momodou Ceesay.

Bartlett, Moberly and Burdge said Thursday that they could not attend Friday’s meeting because of professional or personal commitments.

All three said they would vote in favor of seeking the RFP if they could.

That leaves Ceesay and the three county commissioners to decide whether to seek an RFP.

Smaligo put the issue on the agenda and says he plans to vote in favor of it.

“We are responsible for deciding whether the sheriff, a private company, or the authority itself operates the jail,” he said. “It’s time for the trustees to be counted and make that decision proactively.

“I fully support the idea of asking the private sector to tell us if they can run the jail more efficiently than the sheriff. If the private sector is not able to prove they can do that, I believe the sheriff should continue running the jail.”

Smaligo said the authority has heard endless complaints from some trustees about how the jail is operated.

“We’ve talked about the possibility of privatization and I think it is past time to actually do something about it,” he said

Commissioners Karen Keith and Ron Peters, meanwhile, indicated  they could support the idea.

“In a way, I believe it’s good from time to time to make sure taxpayer dollars are being spent judiciously,” Peters said. “This would provide a benchmark for making that decision.

“Also, it could resolve the current issue with the city as it pertains to housing their municipal prisoners.”

Keith said she has some issues with privatizing a county jail, but added that “an RFP could help us understand services and costs of operations by a different provider.”

Ceesay said it makes sense to test the waters.

“However, I am morally not in support of a private prison operator, a for-profit entity, being in charge of a taxpayer-funded county jail,” he said. “I do not believe that it is in the interest of a for-profit business to keep people out of jail.”

Bartlett recommended Friday that the RFP not be limited to private contractors but also include the Sheriff’s Office or any other law enforcement agency interested in running the jail.

“They would be limiting the number of people who would be capable of operating the jail,” he said.

The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has operated the jail, formally known as the David L. Moss Criminal Justice Center, since 2005. The jail opened in August 1999 under the operation of Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America.

Sheriff Stanley Glanz said Thursday that he had not known of the possible vote and greeted the news with a lack of enthusiasm.

He noted that CCA did a poor job of keeping the jail in proper condition.

“If they want to give it to somebody that’s not going to spend money to keep it up, that’s it, I’m done,” Glanz said.

Having a private company operate the jail can be expensive, Glanz said, “so they (the TCCJA) needs to stay stay within the revenue stream.”

Operation of the jail has been a focus of intense debate among authority trustees for more than a year.

Bartlett — often supported by Burdge and Moberly — has expressed concern regarding the  jail’s spending and bookkeeping practices and encouraged fellow trustees to take a more active role in overseeing the facility.

That has led to disagreements among trustees about the authority’s role in monitoring the day-to-day operations of the jail.

Bartlett, Burdge and Moberly signed and sent a 41-page letter to the other four trustees on June 15 taking issue with how the jail funds are being spent. The letter outlines examples of what it says were improper expenditures by Glanz’s office of jail tax money, including travel and training, legal fees, automobiles and salaries of employees not related to jail operations.

An investigation by The Frontier found that since 2012, Glanz’s office had spent at least $700,000 and possibly up to $1 million from jail funds to pay outside law firms to defend civil rights lawsuits against his office. The Frontier also found the sheriff’s office spent jail funds on trips that had little connection to jail operations, including a trip by the sheriff and undersheriff to a $500-per-night resort that may have violated county travel policy.

Trustees agree there are only three options for who can operate the jail: the sheriff, under the powers granted to his office by state law, a private contractor hired by the authority, or the authority itself.

The last option would require the seven-member body to hire personnel, keep the books and take care of all other responsibilities that go into running the jail.

County Commissioner and Authority Trustee Ron Peters said he hasn’t made up is mind about whether to seek requests for proposals.

The city of Tulsa and Tulsa County have been negotiating a new jail agreement for more than a year.

The distrust and disagreements among trustees has gotten so bad that the Sand Springs City Council passed a resolution authorizing its attorney to file a lawsuit against Tulsa County, the Criminal Justice Authority, the Sheriff’s Office and others to determine Sand Springs’ rights and responsibilities concerning operations of the jail.

The resolution states that “numerous disputes exist between Tulsa County, the Tulsa County Sheriff and various beneficiary cities concerning the administration of the proceeds and the operations of the jail.”

“Although attempts have been made to resolve some of the differences between the County, the Sheriff and the Beneficiaries, legal issues exist that can only be clearly and completely resolved by legal action amongst the parties, with a Court to determine the legal rights of the various parties involved and affected by the operation of the jail.”

Friday’s special meeting comes as Glanz continues to fight against impaneling a grand jury to investigate his office.

The grand jury investigation was initiated through a petition drive by We The People Oklahoma. The grassroots organization gathered more than 6,000 signatures in the wake of the April 2 shooting death of Eric Harris.

The sheriff has taken his fight against the grand jury to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule before Monday on whether the petition complied with state law  Glanz hired attorneys at taxpayer expense to challenge a technicality regarding how the petition was circulated.

Reserve Deputy Robert Bates, a longtime friend of Glanz’s and benefactor of the Sheriff’s Office, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in Harris’ death. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 8.

The Criminal Justice Authority discussed the possibility of privatizing the jail in April but never voted on the issue. The meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Friday in the county courthouse administration building, 5oo S. Denver Ave.