The Oklahoma Public Employees is claiming victory, at least in part, for a new resolution by the OJA Board of Directors, and the removal of all furlough days for the month of June, 2010.
At a recent meeting OJA Board meeting, OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger addressed the Board, urging them to stop, take a breath, and consider the future.
“I had the chance recently to sit down with legislative leaders,” Barger said, “and unfortunately I cannot report to you today that they have a good grasp of your situation. In fact, I am convinced by their own admission that they are confused as to the very mission of your agency. In one legislator’s words, he said he is confused as to whether OJA is a correctional agency or a therapeutic agency.
“This cannot continue. Today, your challenge is to clearly define what the core function of the OJA is and will be in the future. You must also communicate that to the legislature so there is no confusion. The risk if you do not take this action is that the legislature will give away this agency to the private sector or continue to make budget cuts that are short-sighted, outrageous and lead to an illusion of juvenile protection that is not a reality at all,” Barger said.
As a result, the OJA Board reviewed all of the cuts currently being mandated by the state budget reductions, and voted to support both OJA employees and the agency’s programs. The Board agreed with OPEA in determining that OJA could not continue to provide a lifeline to private providers while continuing to furlough its own employees.
The Board gave a nominal amount to the gang contracts to keep them alive until the next fiscal year.
As a result of the actions, Director Gene Christian ordered the removal of all furlough days to be taken in June 2010 and will be continuing to find additional cost savings in the budget with the goal of eliminating further furlough days.
“This is fantastic news,” Barger said. “OPEA has been at every OJA Board meeting, standing up for those employees. Director Christian, by eliminating all June furlough days, is showing the legislature that his agency and employees cannot be cut any more without it starting to affect its core services.”
“He is also sending a big message to his employees that he is doing his best to preserve the workforce,” said Barger. “At this stage of the budget war, we have won a significant victory.”
A copy of the resolution signed by the OJA board follows:
BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
OF THE OKLAHOMA OFFICE OF JUVENILE AFFAIRS THROUGH UNANIMOUS CONSENT
The members of the Board of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, duly appointed by the Governor of the State of Oklahoma, having heard testimony and reviewed documentation presented at its special meeting on the 12th day of February 2010, do hereby unanimously agree and consent, to the following:
WHEREAS, the Office of Juvenile Affairs is an administrative agency of the State of Oklahoma responsible for programs and services for juveniles alleged or adjudicated to be delinquent or in need of supervision; and
WHEREAS, the mission of this agency is to provide prevention, education and treatment to troubled youth and families; and
WHEREAS, Office of Juvenile Affairs’ staff and the youth they serve should be valued as much as youth served by any other agency of the State of Oklahoma; and
WHEREAS, the budget cuts imposed upon the agency have had the effect of jeopardizing essential services of this agency both in terms of quality and delivery; and
WHEREAS, further budget cuts place at risk the ability of the agency to promote public safety and reduce juvenile delinquency.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE BOARD OF THE OFFICE OF JUVENILE AFFAIRS, that it is the sense of this meeting that the agency is unable to absorb any further budget reductions.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that a message from this Board should be sent to Governor Brad Henry and the Leadership of the Oklahoma Legislature to refrain from directing any further budget cuts to the Office of Juvenile Affairs.
Edward L. Smith, Chair
Board of Juvenile Affairs
I, Linda McLennan, certify that I am the Secretary of the Board of the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs, and that I have compared the foregoing with a resolution adopted by the Board of the Office of Juvenile Affairs at its special meeting held on the 12th day of February 2010, a quorum being present, as recorded in the minutes of the special meeting and I hereby certify that the same is a true, correct, and complete copy thereof, and that the same has not been amended or repealed and is now in full force and effect.
Linda McLennan, Secretary
Board of Juvenile Affairs