Ottawa County residents push leadership for answers, transparency, about sheriff’s office budget

Dozens of residents voice concerns at county commission meeting
Ottawa County commission room full of people

OTTAWA COUNTY, Okla. – Over the last year, the Ottawa County Sheriff has had problems with his budget, which has meant he’s had to make budget cuts and let people go.

The commission decided in December to hold the sheriff financially responsible for any budget overages, and Floyd says he only has four full-time deputies to patrol the county, with nine reserve deputies that are unpaid and volunteer positions.

The sheriff says the issues are caused because the sheriff’s office isn’t properly funded, but the county commission says his budget has more county funding than ever.

Now, residents like Cori Stotts, who says she’s concerned for her family’s safety, want the truth.

“We pay a lot on taxes, and we want to know where those tax dollars are going,” says Ottawa County resident Cori Stotts.

That question is just one of dozens that residents wanted answers to during a packed county commission meeting on Monday (Jan. 6th).

“I think that it’s time that we’re able to ask some questions,” says Jay Calan, another concerned resident.

“No particular topic is going to be discussed in depth. The open meeting act prohibits the board from entering into discussions during public comment,” District Attorney Kenny Wright said at the beginning of the meeting.

Commissioners Russell Earls made the comment that commissioners would discuss concerns with residents after the meeting adjourned.

Two big questions that were asked included why the commission decided to make the sheriff pay for budget overages out of pocket, and why the sheriff’s office is running with only four full-time deputies.

“I think that it’s really clear that there’s an issue somewhere when we have a sheriff that’s coming out and saying I’ve had to lay off forty employees, the employees that I have left are working at a 10 percent decrease in pay, and are working more hours then what they’re paid for,” says Stotts.

“So if a deputy’s over here, and there’s only one deputy, and doing something, and we have some type of tragedy or something at our home, how do we get law enforcement protection? We don’t.” says Calan.

Commissioner Russell Earls pointed out the tribal police and reserve officers.

“There are nine reserves [deputies], they serve with no pay, and we’ve got nine of them, that seems very strong. And we have a huge tribal presence, so we are so much better off than our neighbors across the state,” says Earls. “We’re not losing the sheriff.”

He also brought up the sheriff’s budget, saying the commission has given the sheriff more funding this year than in years past.

“County government has continued to increase our funding from our county general here in the courthouse as years go by. Each year more is requested, and each year we put more money in, and the numbers will bear that out. It’s a fact,” says Earls. “I’ve heard that he’s not getting the half a penny sales tax. By law, he gets every penny of it. So he’s getting, he’s getting funding.”

Floyd has said in past interviews that his payroll budget was cut by 400-thousand dollars.

He’s also said that he lost between 50 and 60 thousand dollars a month in income from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections when they stopped housing inmates at the jail last year.

Residents still feel like there are unanswered questions.

So Stotts is pushing the state to do an audit on county funds and is planning a public meeting that the commission and the sheriff have been invited to.

“Going forward I just hope that we can really get numbers, see what’s been budgeted for the sheriff, and why we can’t afford to take care of one of the most important departments in our county,” says Stotts.

The public meeting is set for Thursday, January 9th at 7 pm at Grace Church in Miami.

The county is also waiting on results from an investigative audit into the sheriff’s budget by the Oklahoma State Auditor’s office.

Commissioner Chad Masterson adds during a phone conversation on Tuesday that “this thing has been blown out of hand,” and that the commission has been called corrupt and threatened by residents.

“There is no elected office out there that has all the money they need, everyone has a budget they have to adhere to,” says Masterson.

He also thinks the commission meeting went very well and says that he spoke with people afterward like the commission said they would.

“This is not a political thing. I don’t care if their democrat, republican or otherwise, they all have a job to do as elected officials. We [the commission] are stewards of the taxpayer money,” says Masterson. “Politics have nothing to do with it, we’re just all trying to do our jobs.”

Previous stories on the Ottawa County Sheriff’s budget:

 

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