MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 25, 2013

County OKs jail phone contract

Deal absolves commissioners, sheriff from liability under earlier deal

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Commissioners and the county’s top prosecutor signed off on a contract between the sheriff’s office and a company that provides telephone services for jail inmates.

Muskogee County District Attorney Larry Moore said the service contract absolves commissioners and the sheriff of any liability arising from a 2010 agreement. That contract, which included provisions for payments to a third-party vendor, caught the attention of state auditors earlier this year.

Problems cited by auditors included an apparent lack of competitive bidding, no prior approval by county commissioners, and its terms exceeded the one-year maximum allowed by law. The new contract with Global Tel*Link deals only with the provision of inmate telephone services, which officials said falls outside the scope of state procurement procedures.

Muskogee County Sheriff Charles Pearson said the new contract not only cures the alleged defects of the 2010 agreement, it will generate more revenue. Pearson said his office’s share of the proceeds generated by inmate telephone calls will increase from 50 percent to 75.1 to 80.1 percent.

“We worked it out where the county comes out on top, and we will pass that good fortune along to our employees,” Pearson said. “The main thing is it complies with the policies of state government and it should pass scrutiny.”

Commission Chairman Stephen Wright, District 2, said while commissioners are not required to approve service contracts, they wanted to review the new agreement to ensure there were no problems. He said Moore worked everything out with lawyers representing Global Tel*Link, who had threatened to sue the county for a purported debt arising from the 2010 contract.

The debt stems from the 2010 contract, which states Global Tel*Link financed the purchase of equipment provided by Sydaptic for use by the sheriff’s office at the county jail. That purchase was to be repaid to Global Tel*Link at the rate of $11,222.50 per month for five years and deducted from revenue the sheriff’s office otherwise would have received from inmate telephone calls.

While the contract for jail telephone services may have been corrected, there remains a possibility of repercussions once the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones publishes the findings of his office. Moore said once the audit is published, it will have to be reviewed to determine whether there was any wrongdoing connected with the 2010 contract.

Pearson has maintained there never was “any intent to defraud anybody or do anything wrong.” The equipment at issue in the 2010 contract was needed to improve safety and security at the Muskogee County/City Detention Center.

“We learn from our mistakes, and it never will happen again,” Pearson said. “I appreciate Larry and the commissioners for helping me get this straightened out.”

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or dsmoot@muskogeephoenix.com.