City Of Tulsa To Sue The County Over Jail Fees

Tuesday, December 2nd 2008, 6:16 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- The City of Tulsa plans to sue Tulsa County over the cost of housing inmates.  The county wants the city to start paying a daily rate of $54 a person.  The city argues that's not the agreement that was made when voters approved a sales tax for jail operations.

The city and county had a deal for the last 13 years in which the city paid nothing for inmates arrested only on city crimes:  traffic and small time offenses.  That deal ended on July first, and now with the negotiations deadlocked; the city says it's going to court.

The impasse is over which government, county or city, should bear the cost of housing city inmates.  The county is demanding $54.13 a day for city detainees.  The city won't agree pay anything.

"Is there common ground somewhere between 54.13 and zero?  I believe there is, but the common ground does not lie at zero.  The number cannot be zero," said Tulsa County Commissioner John Smaligo.

The jail is run by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office, but most of the tax money that runs it comes from within the city limits of Tulsa and city taxpayers.

Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor argues if the city pays a daily rate, it's paying twice for the same service.

"That simply wasn't what the voters agreed to and I cannot in good conscious sign something that taxes the citizens of Tulsa for a tax they're already paying," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

For the last 13 years, the city exchanged services with the county.  One example is the detention area and secure walkway linking the police courts building and county courthouse.

In exchange, the city wasn't charged for its inmates, but now the county wants to start charging not just a daily rate, but extra charges for moving inmates, booking them into jail and guarding them in court. 

With what the mayor calls a fundamental disagreement over the fees, she says there's no choice but to go to court.

"It's not the best alternative, but it may be the only alternative we have because we certainly cannot allow this to linger," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Regardless, the county and city say public safety won't be compromised until a new deal is made.