Okla. Co. Commissioners Pull Back On Protest Restriction Proposal

Friday, August 14th 2020, 6:25 pm


Oklahoma County Commissioners heard from the public for the time in 151 days. The first time since Commission Chair Kevin Calvey ended public comments due to COVID-19.

For an hour and a half, commissioners heard from protesters, civil rights advocates and concerned citizens. Many spoke against a proposed ordinance on the agenda that would have placed restrictions on protests on county property.

Wednesday, Commissioners voted to delay voting on the proposal till Friday, August 14.

“It was described to me as something that would help protect jury impartiality and would protect court proceedings from being shouted down or things like that,” Calvey said. “Upon further examination and having received public input from a number of folks, it became clear that this proposal is an undue burden on free speech.”

People also spoke against the board moving $42 million in federal CARES Act funds to the Oklahoma County Detention Center. Commissioners officially moved $6 Million for hazard pay and repairs to HVAC and plumbing issues Friday. The remaining funds will be voted on next Wednesday.

“We believe that there's some strong evidence that fecal matter can transfer COVID,” Commissioner Brian Maughan said. “I feel confident, and I have spoken with the district attorney who also feels confident that we were making an appropriate and lawful allocation of those dollars.”

“It's very clear from the COVID guidelines from the department of treasury, the department that is responsible for administering the CARES Act, that what we are doing here today is absolutely consistent with the CARES act and what it is intended for,” Calvey said.

Thursday, County Treasurer Forest “Butch” Freeman, who sits on the county budget board, expressed concern that some of the jail expenses don’t qualify for COVID-19 funds.

“We got to remember when the dust settles, they're going to come down out of the hills and examine what we did,” Freeman said. “If what we did in their opinion, the department of the treasury, did not meet the guidelines then we are on the hook to repay whatever we end up spending.”