Showdown at the county jail

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My latest article in Urban Tulsa Weekly is about the soon-to-expire agreement between the City of Tulsa and Tulsa County regarding jail operations. Under the existing contract, the county's jail system uses several city facilities rent-free -- including the old city jail, which provides holding cells for the adjacent county courthouse, and a property room -- in exchange for the city being allowed to hold up to 116 prisoners, in jail only on municipal charges, at no cost to the city.

The latest volley in the war of words between the two sides comes in a sharply-worded letter from Assistant City Attorney Christine Benediktson to County Commissioner John Smaligo, which accuses county officials of not negotiating in good faith and advises that the city is prepared to go it alone when the contract expires:

Over the last several months I have listened carefully to your issues, spent considerable time in researching issues and solutions and in meeting with City officials and employees in an effort to reach a compromise and, ultimately, to avoid a protracted legal dispute. Your response to these efforts makes a mockery of the negotiation process and constitutes bad faith. As a resident of Tulsa County, I am extremely disappointed in you as a public official. It is most unfortunate that you do not appear to respect or honor your fiduciary duty to the citizens of Tulsa - who comprise one of the largest communities within the County that you serve.

I have been authorized to inform you that if the County persists in refusing to negotiate properly, the City is prepared to change the way we conduct municipal court business. We will be prepared to deal with our municipal prisoners independently on October 1st. We will contemporaneously move forward to analyze our legal options against the County. Further, if this occurs, the Sheriff will be required to handle all administrative services previously provided by the City and to vacate all City owned premises, including the municipal court building, the holding cells and the sally port. Additionally, the County will need to make arrangements for the property located in the City Property Room currently held by the City on behalf of the County. Despite your representations to the contrary, approximately 80% of that property is being held in relation to cases currently pending in State Court.

The letter also advises that some misdemeanors that are both municipal offenses and state offenses -- assault and battery and DUI are specifically named -- will be booked as state violations, rather than municipal, as they routinely are booked today. This would allow Tulsa to avoid being billed for these prisoners, but it would move the case from Municipal to District Court, adding to the workload of the District Attorney and the District Court.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 26, 2008 12:01 PM.

Out of the mouths of babes: RNC edition was the previous entry in this blog.

Yes, we went to the Tulsa State Fair is the next entry in this blog.

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