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Old 03-06-2005, 03:36 PM
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Post ARTICLE - Update on Who's Going to Run Tulsa County Jail

Tulsa Jail's keys are still up for grabs
By SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
3/6/2005


Mayor Bill LaFortune believes the sheriff has a strong case to be chosen over three private companies for the contract to run the Tulsa Jail.

But other members of the Criminal Justice Authority are waiting to take a position until March 18, when they will discuss the four proposals and hope to select a jail operator. The authority will meet with the potential operators to hear presentations and ask questions.

Mayoral spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said LaFortune intends to make sure the other authority members understand Sheriff Stanley Glanz's position.

LaFortune said that private management of the new arena and the city's trash service is an efficient use of funds, but jail operations are unique in terms of public safety.

"That's where I believe accountability for elected officials becomes a more pivotal issue because of the public safety aspect," he said.

Pointing out that he runs for office and is accountable to the community, Glanz has said that he doesn't believe that private operators should be keeping people in jail for a profit.

Chris Howard, spokesman for current jail operator Corrections Corporation of America, responded to the accountability issue.

"Under the sheriff there was never day-to-day accountability or performance monitoring like there is with the current use of the Tulsa County Criminal Justice Authority's full-time contract monitor, a compliance officer, ACA audits, the state jail inspector and seven elected officials who are all held accountable by the voters to ensure that CCA or any other private operator operates the jail properly," he said. "Without the current elevated level of accountability and day-to-day monitoring, it took a federal investigation by the Department of Justice to change the way the jail was operated in Tulsa County."

Authority member and County Commissioner Wilbert Collins said he will reserve his thoughts on the proposals until the meetings.

"The sheriff's proposal was reviewed, it was complete, it was acceptable and it's under consideration at this time," Collins said. "My position is to take the contractor that's going to provide the best service to the county. It's not a matter of friendships, politics, it's just a matter of what's best for the county."

Authority member Charles Campbell, mayor of Glenpool, said he has no preconceived notions.

"Every one of them has an argument as to why they should be the preferred applicant and some of those are valid and some of them are less valid. I can't really say that the sheriff has the most valid arguments of any," Campbell said.

The authority is charged with selecting the operator with the lowest and best proposal.

Collins said the low bidders appear to be CCA, followed by the GEO Group. But authority member Randi Miller, also a county commissioner, says it's GEO followed closely by the sheriff.

Nashville-based CCA submitted an $18 million alternate proposal, with the authority assuming $2.5 million in utilities, transportation, court holding and certain medical and hospital costs. But that may not be considered the lowest bid because of the cost-shifting involved.

Miller said she knows operators were asked to come up with innovative ideas, but she doesn't think CCA's alternate proposal would save the authority any money.

"We don't have the $2.5 million to be able to take that on. That's why we sent it out for competitive bidding in the first place," Miller said.

CCA also proposes to lease about 450 empty beds in the 1,714-bed jail from the authority for $1 a year to house inmates from other jurisdictions. CCA would earn all the revenue that would generate.

Housing other inmates at the jail is a fine idea as long as the authority receives 100 percent of the profit, Undersheriff Brian Edwards said.

"My thinking is that this is a building built with public funds, and I think if there's any profit to be made, 100 percent should go to the public for the benefit of the public," Edwards said.

CCA's other proposal of $21.4 million, which adheres to the formal request for proposals and includes no cost-shift ing, is the highest bid. Miller said it would be difficult to find an argument strong enough to select the highest bidder.

The unknown legal costs associated with defending lawsuits brought by inmates is a concern if the sheriff were to run the jail, Campbell said. Collins said private contractors give the county a safety net because they absorb those legal costs, but they can't be escaped if the sheriff has the jail.

Collins said the District Attorney's Office is working on compiling the amount of judgments awarded to inmates when the sheriff ran the old jail. Authority member Bob Dick said the jail board will certainly have to discuss the issue.

Edwards said said he doesn't anticipate a lot of litigation.

"That doesn't happen in a properly run, direct-supervision jail," Edwards said.

Collins is serving on a committee with authority members Campbell and Collinsville Mayor Stan Sallee. He said they are evaluating the proposals and will come back to the authority with a summary of their findings.

Authority member Richard Carter, mayor of Broken Arrow, said all four operators have good points but that questions remain.

"I have not made up my mind. I'm not supposed to at this point I don't think," Carter said.

Sallee could not be reached for comment.
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