How Tulsa County could pay $10.2 million judgment for inmate's jail death
It took jurors about 10 hours of deliberations to decide the family of Elliott Williams deserves $10.2 million. But when it comes to deciding how to pay for the judgment, Tulsa County officials are taking things a little slower.
“It’s a complicated system, but bottom line it was designed for a judgement to not bankrupt an organization,” said Michael Willis, Tulsa County Clerk.
Willis said the county pays for judgments with the “sinking fund," funded by property taxes.
“(The $10 million) won’t make a huge impact," said Willis. "I mean, it will be significant for us because it will be more than what we’ve been used to collecting over the last years. It won’t impact the taxpayer so much because they won’t notice a major difference."
The county will have three years to pay the $10.2 million judgment, but it all depends on if county commissioners accept the verdict.
Willis said if the commissioners approve the judgment property taxes could increase about of $7 per $100,000-worth of property value. But Willis did warn that if there are more judgments made against the county, there could be more increases.
Attorneys for the Williams family said they have about five to seven other jail death cases awaiting trial.
“That rate can go up based on the amount of judgments that are coming in against the county,” said Willis.
According to records, the county has paid about $142,000 to defend itself in the Williams case, but that total is only through May 2016.
Tulsa's Channel 8 reached out to county commissioners to see what their plans are when it comes to the judgment. There is an option for the county to require the company who was running the jail at the time of Williams’ death to pay, but that might require legal action.
As of Tuesday, commissioners said they plan on talking to their legal department before making any decisions.
In an email, Commissioner Ron Peters wrote: “You may or may not know that all 3 County Commissioners were subpoenaed to be witnesses in the Williams trial. As such we were prevented from attended any parts of the trial, so we have no firsthand knowledge of the events occurring inside the courtroom. As of now, we have not had the opportunity to meet with Trial Counsel to get their take on what happened or to discuss a path forward. A decision on future actions, including all or your questions below, will be decided after we have met with the attorneys to discuss our options. When reviewing your questions, I think you will agree that there are some pretty significant issues to be addressed and a decision about what course of action to take will only be made after meetings are held to discuss available options. When it comes time to make a decision that pronouncement will be made in public at a future BOCC meeting.”
Commissioner John Smaligo wrote: "In response to your questions, the BOCC will be apprised of our options on Monday regarding the Williams case. Until we have the opportunity to hear from our legal counsel I believe it would be premature to make any declarations regarding how we move forward."