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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Transparency - One is Not Mud Slinging if They Are Telling The Truth - Sometimes Truth is More Bizarre than Fiction

See the Arab Tribune Article published in the Arab Tribune, Thursday, November 2, 2009 - Arab, Alabama - Below Our tribute to the 
Late Morgan County Sheriff's Office -Corrections Officer Angela Hundley 

The definition of transparency noun (OPEN)


 [U] the ​quality of being done in an ​open way without ​secrets:We ​want more transparency in ​government.
Why was Sheriff Ana Franklin elected the first time around?  The citizens of Morgan County were disappointed that the previous sheriff pocketed over 100,000 that was designated to feed the inmates.  Sheriff Franklin ran her campaign on the weakness of the previous administration's lack of transparency ensuring the citizens that if she was elected her administration would be fully transparent.  

Sheriff Franklin's idea of transparency is about as transparent as as a solid steeldoor.  There has been very little transparency during the Sheriff's tenure.  We did receive three financial ledgers and associated independent auditor's compilation report from Sheriff Franklin's attorney.  It should be noted at this point that the sheriff manages 21 separate bank accounts plus a discretionary account.  The Alabama Code 1975, Title 36 constables, law enforcement, sheriff's states that a citizen have the right to review these financial documents which are kept in bound binders readily available to the public.  We filed multiple Alabama Open Records Request, filed a lawsuit, and submitted complaints to the Alabama State Attorney General in attempt obtain copies of all financial ledgers and associated receipts for accounts receivable and payable.  

If you have read our blogs you know that the financial ledgers we did receive from the sheriff's attorney, that's right the sheriff's attorney because records were not available for review in binder in sheriff's office, nor were we afforded an opportunity to review binders for all of the 21 accounts and the discretionary ledger.  In addition, each of the ledgers we received along with the independent auditors compilation of the jail store account, Inmate housing ledger, and the sheriff's general fund ledger have massive discrepancies equivalent a to the size of the Grand Canyon. 

If the sheriff is truly running a transparent office why aren't the ledgers readily available for all citizens to review, take a copy of all writings to include receipts of accounts  and receivable? 

The citizens have the right to know the good, the bad, and the ugly.  We did get the good, the bad, and the ugly during the time Sheryl Marsh was a reporter for the Decatur Daily.  What happened to Sheryl Marsh's ability to report the news?
Controversial personnel actions begin brewing the first week of Franklin's swearing in.  The first days in office the sheriff demoted LT Douglas Key, Commander of the Drug Task Force sheriff subsequent fired LT Key. Sheriff Franklin ignored the Morgan County Sheriff's Office Manual.  The manual gave the employees a wide range of due process that the sheriff desired to ignore.  The sheriff retroactively cancelled the Morgan County Sheriff's Manual as of the day she took office on January 18, 2011.  She can't do that.  The rules for state and county offices are that manuals must remains active until a Draft Manual is prepared, submitted to the state for approval, and approved by the state.  After Key's termination the sheriff hired and promoted her best bud known as Bones into the position Key held prior to his termination.  The sheriff has continued to make questionable personnel actions.   The sheriff consistently overlooks qualified APOST certified personnel to hire her buds in high ranking positions who are not APOST certified.   The vacancies are not posted giving all employees a fair and equitable opportunity to apply and compete for upward mobility positions.    What does this do for morale within the ranks? That questions is rhetorical, folks. 

What we have seen since Sheriff Franklin's swearing in on January 18, 2011 to present is more and more controversial, irresponsible, ignoring the needs of the road deputies, misuse of the reserves, misuse of the budget and misappropriation of the budget, and misuse or irresponsible of personnel actions etc.  
Sheriff Franklin did say in the below listed Arab Tribune Article that  
"Franklin said sheriff's office financial records for such funds as the pistol permit and inmate food would be available for citizen inspection if she were elected".  

We did get the pistol permit ledger, inmate food ledger, the general fund ledger and the compilation reports written  by the independent auditor the sheriff hired after multiple Alabama Open Records Requests, complaints to the State Attorney General, and a lawsuit. The lawsuit was dropped because the MCSO Insurance Attorney reminded us that the sheriff has qualified immunity from all lawsuits.  The only exception to the qualified immunity is that the Sheriff does not have qualified immunity involving Federal lawsuits. Folks, the sheriff has had and currently has plenty of Federal complaints,  Again, we asked for copies of all 21 bank accounts and the sheriff's discretionary. fund of the Sheriff's financial ledgers, receipts for accounts payable and accounts receivable.  We now realize that we were fortunate to receive ledgers for three of the accounts and the compilation reports.  I can only imagine that the sheriff regrets providing us with the ledgers that she provided.  I can only imagine how thankful the sheriff is that she did not give us access to all of the ledgers especially the discretionary ledgers.

We wonder if the MCSO insurance provider knows that non-APOST certified personnel, reserve deputies, and contractor personnel are driving MCSO vehicles fully equipped with all the bells and whistles for the APOST certified deputies.  We also wonder what the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would say of this practice.  What happens when a citizen flags down a  non-APOST certified reserve deputy, the chaplain, Sue Ann Goodwin, and non-APOST certified corrections officers?  Do the non-APOST certified personnel stop and provide assistance?  Do the non-APOST certified  person tell the citizen that they can't help them?  Does the non-APOST certified person call dispatch for an APOST certified deputy?  We were told by an honest non-APOST certified person that he felt -compelled to tell the citizen that he could not assist them.   The corrections officer contacted dispatch for an APOST certified deputy.  If the incident had been a life or death situation it could have had catastrophic consequences for the sheriff's office.

Sheriff Franklin goes on to say in the article below that the Sheriff's office is one of the biggest responsibilities in Morgan County.  I believe this statement to be true.  Why is the sheriff allowed to be a no show sheriff?  The sheriff knows how important the office of the sheriff is to the citizens, local government, the state, and her staff and employees.  You cannot run a sheriff's office long distance.  If the sheriff' fails to run the sheriff's office with the philosophy of standing firm on legal, moral, and ethical behavior, she must face the consequences.  We also believe that if the sheriff fell under Federal guidelines,sheriff would be charged with abuse of power, fraud, waste, and abuse, misappropriation of funds, discrimination, unfair hiring practices which include but are not limited to fair and equitable competitive promotion opportunities.  We also believe that the sheriff would be charged for illegal hiring practices for hiring family members, hiring people with a criminal record both family, and non-family, and paying contract labor with Walmart gift cards. 

One thing that we did not see in the in the State Examiner's audit and the independent auditors compilation report was a section on contract labor which concerns me.  Did the contract labor receive a 1099?  Did the sheriff submit the contract labor to the IRS?  Were background checks conducted on the contract labor?  It concerns me that as I write this blog the sheriff has current personnel who have been arrested and convicted of crimes.  

We spoke to a lady who worked for the sheriff's office.   The lady was in a relationship with another lady who also worked for the sheriff's office,  The lady described an event where she was accused of bringing contraband into the jail.  The lady's car was searched, she was called to the sheriff's office, asked to take a urinalysis, then ordered to step out into the hall.  The lady refused to step out in the hall opting to see the results of the urinalysis results first hand.  The lady's urinalysis came back clean.  Both ladies eventually chose to leave their positions with the MCSO.   After the incident involving the two ladies Mr. Berzett conducted interviews with potential new employees.  Berzett asked what their religious preference was.  Mr. Berzett commented that he did not want any more homosexual working in the sheriff's office.  I guess womanizers are allowed.

In the Arab Tribune the sheriff goes on to talk about her previous position as lead investigator for the sex offender unit.  Sheriff Franklin did not mention that she could not handle the position. Persons who worked with sheriff during those days say that the sheriff frequently broke out in crying spells saying she could not handle the job.   I believe it was during this timeframe that Sheriff Franklin wrote a 12 page suicide letter.  Unfortunately, none of this came to light until after the sheriff won the election.  The information never made it to the media.  Many things did not make the news.  We read on AL.com that the sheriff lived with a man that was also in a relationship with one of her daughters.  The man subsequently married the sheriff's daughter.  The sheriff's daughter and sheriff's ex-lover are now divorced.  Troubling.  We are told that the sheriff went on to have a relationship with Steven Ziaja who was at the time a married man.  We believe that Ziaja bought a gym  for the sheriff from money that he inherited.  His inheritance was worth approximately one million dollars in the form of homes, land, and other assets to include some money.  

During Franklin's first campaign for sheriff most of this information was posted on AL.com but was largely ignored.  We set out to verify the comments made on AL.com.  After careful research of the scandalous information,we believe we have verified the statements made in this blog.

During the sheriff's tenure we have seen arrogance and ignorance which undermines the most honorable position in Morgan County.  That we respect the office of sheriff does not mean that we respect the actions or inactions of the sitting sheriff.   

Speaking of arrogance.  We found out that the sheriff's side kick Larry Berzett was seen in his brand new sixty thousand dollar county truck driving at a high rate of speed appx 90 mph.  A vigilant state trooper made chase of the  the unmarked truck.  The trooper followed the truck for a considerable amount of time before Berzett flashed the lights letting the trooper know that he was an officer of the law.  Berzett did not stop for the trooper as if he was on an urgent call.   Berzett was not on an urgent law enforcement call.  Instead of being  written up for for an array of violations such as endangering the public by driving at a high rated of speed, failure to stop for another law enforcement agency in pursuit,  Berzett tattle-tailed on the trooper.  Something is wrong with this picture.  We have not verified this information but we were told that the sheriff complained to the trooper's supervisor.  We are happy to report that the trooper did not receive a disciplinary action for performing his duties.

Berzett is in the position of  jail administrator.  We have not been able to verify that Berzett is  an APOST certified law enforcement officer authorized to drive vehicles which reflect APOST certification.  At one time we submitted an Alabama Open Records Request to the State requesting verification of  Berzett's APOST certification.  The state offical that responded to our request was Mr. Zook.  His answer to our request was that they only maintain records of APOST certified personnel.  His response went on to say that we should contact the State Attorney General for information on non-APOST certified persons.  This response is an answer without an answer.  Does his response mean that Berzett is not APOST certified? That is how we read the response.  Isn't there an APOST certificate hanging in Berzett's office?  The job description of Jail Administrator requires APOST certification or the equivalent.  What does equivalent mean? Why is Berzett performing the task of the warden.  Isn't the warden a man of color?  Wasn't the lady who was placed on 6 months of administrative leave a woman of color, and wasn't she the first line supervisor of the sheriff's common law son-in-law Jonathan Stebbins during is short but turbulent six weeks of employment as a MCSO corrections officer?  Wasn't the sheriff's common law son-in-law allowed to resign after multiple arrests during the six weeks he worked for the sheriff?   Isn't the sheriff's common law son-in law white?  Wasn't corporal Wilson allowed to resign before being terminated after a sexual harassment was reported?  Isn't CPL Wilson also white? Why wasn't CPL Wilson afforded his due process?  We have heard story after story just like these. We can't say what these incidents mean, however, the practice appears to be one sided.  

In Memory Honor of Corrections Officer Angela Hundley:  This portion of the blog has been most difficult to write.  I observed first hand Corrections Officer Hundley's pain and suffering after being terminated from the MCSO.  The difficulties she faced were enormous.  Corrections Officer Hundley was a woman of color.  Hundley was terminated a couple of days after disclosing that she had her third occurrence  of Cancer?  I spent many hours talking to Correction Officer Hundley.  When Corrections Officer Hundley was terminated she requested a personnel review board hearing.  I don't know how many times Corrections Officer Hundley petitioned the personnel review board to rescheduled her hearing nor do I do I care.  Corrections Officer Hundley was in the fight for her life.  I can't imagine how difficult it was for Corrections Officer's Hundley to discover she had a third occurrence of cancer, being terminated, losing her medical insurance, the ability to support her family, going through extensive cancer treatment, and being denied a request to reschedule her personnel review board hearing.   Angela had many choices to make one of those choices was to cancel her life saving cancer treatment, flights to and from Georgia for treatment, or rescheduling a local personnel review board hearing.   The request should have been simple, compassionate, and supportive.  

Why was Angela terminated?  Why was Stebbins allowed to resign? What 
egregious acts did Angela commit?  Did she get arrested? Was she arrested and charged with  committing  burglaries while working as a corrections officer?  Was she spending time in jail in another county while working as a Morgan County Sheriff's Office Correction Office?  Was she related to the sheriff?  The answer to all of these questions is no.  Angela committed no crimes.  She was charged for committing a violation of jail policy.  Stebbins, the sheriff's common law son-in-law, he is white, he was spending time in the Limestone county jail, arrested multiple times for burglary, contempt of court,  misdemeanors, and was in drug court during the time he worked for the sheriff.   Stebbins and his common law wife and their children live in the sheriff's home in Decatur with the sheriff's daughter and grandchildren.  Stebbins  was allowed to resign without adequate notice after being charged with yet another burglary in Limestone County.  

 I regret that Angela died from her cancer related illness before she could file an EEOC complaint.  I believe she would have won an EEOC complaint, would have gone back to work with back pay and compensation for the misdeeds she was subjected to by management of the sheriff's office.   Spending time with Angela  made me a stronger person.  I admired her decision making abilities, her ability to set priorities and stick to them.  The cowardly act of terminating Angela by MCSO management broke her heart but did not break her spirit.  Angela lost her health insurance, her ability to support her family, but she never faltered in her faith in God and family.  The persons who played a part in Angela's termination and the decisions made by the cold hearted personnel review board panel denying her request to reschedule her hearing could not take away Angela's faith, dignity, believe in God and family, clean heart, and her ability to focus on treatment first.  Sadly Angela lost her battle with cancer.  Now
she is resting in God's  loving arms.  God is a loving and forgiving God which is lucky for anyone who mistreats the sick, needy, the lame, and the weak.   

Life isn't always fair.

By CHARLES WHISENANT - The Arab Tribune
Wednesday, October 28, 2009 10:22 AM CDT
Ana Franklin is making history as the first woman to run for sheriff of Morgan County.

Franklin, 45, is running for the Republican nomination against two-term incumbent Greg Bartlett and contender Noel Mayfield, a former Decatur police officer.

Franklin was an investigator for the sheriff's office before retiring in December, when she went into business buying Family Fitness Center.

Franklin said that, if elected, she would run a transparent sheriff's office.

"I think the sheriff's office is probably one of the biggest responsibilities there is in Morgan County," Franklin said. "There are so many opportunities to do good in that office. We need to look at the things that are good and keep them, and we need to look at things that are not and change those."

Franklin said sheriff's office financial records for such funds as the pistol permit and inmate food would be available for citizen inspection if she were elected.
"I'll work hard and I will do it with integrity," she said.

Franklin said she would immediately apply for grants to help pay for putting resource officers in the county's school system.

"Community awareness through education is critical," she said. "We don't have any resource officers in our county schools and there are grants that can be obtained to put them there. I would get the funding because it's needed."

In addition to working at the sheriff's office, Franklin also was a volunteer in Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakley's office and a volunteer and founding member of the North Alabama Search Dog Association.
"(Blakely) told me there was no bigger responsibility than to be a law enforcement officer, and that's what I believe," she said.

In the Morgan County Sheriff's Office, Franklin was lead investigator for the sex offenders unit.

She was named the 2007 Morgan County Law Enforcement Officer of the year because she had the highest number of arrests in the county.

She was the first woman assigned to the county's drug task force and worked vice and narcotics, where she saw first-hand the dangers of crystal meth.

"I am the only candidate who is certified in meth labs, and I made hundreds of meth arrests," she said. "I didn't come after everything was over. I suited up and was one of the first to go through the doors, pulling samples."

She told The Decatur Daily that law enforcement is more than making arrests.

"Sure, we want to arrest those who break the law, but we also need to do prevention through educational sources," she said. "That's why I feel we should start when they're young in school teaching them about meth and crime."


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