The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Authority, also called the Oklahoma County Jail Trust, voted 6-0 to send roughly $25 million in CARES Act funding back to the Oklahoma County government.
Trustees Kevin Calvey, who is also a county commissioner, and Danny Honeycutt opted to abstain.
In August, the trust accepted about $40 million in CARES Act funds, which must be used for pandemic-related expenses by the end of the calendar year. The move was immediately met with backlash from demonstrators who wanted the money to be used for other purposes like, for example, rent assistance.
Monday’s action leaves the jail with $14.7 million to make purchases and make improvements to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Trust Chair Trisha Everest said the list was agreed upon by a majority of trustees and can be completed ahead of the CARES Act deadline of Dec. 30, 2020.
“There's a lot of creative and smart people that I hope will be able to come together and create other opportunities to be able to help,” using the leftover $25 million, Everest said.
A list of possible expenses for the remaining $14.7 million was included in the meeting agenda. Honeycutt said he abstained because he disagreed with some of the expenses on the list.
The list includes $140,000 for testing, $400,000 for PPE and COVID Supplies, $1.5 million for Video equipment to reduce COVID spread, and $9.6 million for COVID repairs and improvements.
“Where's the breakdown of that? If you approve this, we're still going to court,” said Mark Faulk, who is part of a group behind a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the jail trust. The lawsuit was also filed on Monday.
“I want to know where every single one of my taxpayer dollars are going. Every single one,” said Adriana Laws, a demonstrator and organizer of county protests.
Oklahoma County Treasurer Forrest Freeman said the trust’s vote to return the leftover $25 million said the county’s budget board and commissioners will need to approve the action before it’s final. The budget board is set to meet Thursday.