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Orange County Sheriff officials are paying a consultant to monitor their phone system operator that’s under fire for improperly recording inmates’ calls with attorneys at the county jail. 

They’re also asking for a $7 million upgrade to their shooting range. 

Both issues, and the public spending around them, will come before the Board of Supervisors at their next meeting Tuesday. Click here to access the meeting via livestream that day.

The Sheriff’s Dept. is requesting additional spending on consultants helping them oversee their current phone system operator, until they award a new jail phone contract, and ensure things move over smoothly without the legally questionable hitches that came with their current contractor, Global Tel Link (GTL). 

Supervisors originally approved a $275,000 contract with the department’s consultant, Praeses LLC, in 2019. The next year, supervisors extended it for the same amount. 

Supervisors, if they approve the requested extension Tuesday, would bring the total cost of Praeses’ consulting services to $825,000.

Revelations in 2018 that a number of phone calls were improperly recorded inside Orange County jails, including calls between attorneys and their clients, raised questions about how widespread the potential constitutional violations are and who should be held accountable.

Much of those questions have fallen on GTL, which is the nation’s largest jail phone vendor, contracting mainly with local and state governments that operate most of the jails and prisons in the United States.

Under California law, it’s a felony for anyone to record or eavesdrop without permission on inmates’ phone calls with attorneys, doctors, or clergy.

County staff, in a report attached to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, say delays due to COVID-19 have demanded additional time for their process of requesting proposals around a new contract which will require Praeses’ services for a longer period of time.

Meanwhile, county supervisors will also vote on awarding a $7 million contract to engineering firm Archico to upgrade the Sheriff’s dept.’s shooting range facilities. 

The work involves converting the facility’s existing outdoor shooting range into a fully-enclosed indoor one, relocating the K-9 daytime kennels, and adding new storage rooms that would include office space, a range store, locker room and restrooms, equipment and ammunition storage areas, classrooms and an armory, according to the staff report.

The shooting range, now named after the late, former Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, has already been partially updated, officials say, but more alterations are needed to bring the entire range up to date and safety code.

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