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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sheriff has explaining to do Dec 11, 2016, Decatur Daily Editorial

The Issue

Smoke does not always mean fire, but it is billowing from the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office lately. The sheriff has some explaining to do.

Recent revelations about the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, some disputed and some not, are disturbing.
What’s undisputed is that the Sheriff’s Office used information from a confidential informant to obtain warrants to seize computers and other material at the home of Leon Bradley, the respected warden of the Morgan County Jail until Sheriff Ana Franklin fired him for allegedly sending documents to the administrator of the Morgan County Whistleblower blog.
Bradley worked and lives in Decatur, so it was surprising the Sheriff’s Office — rather than Decatur Police Department — executed the warrant. Bradley has not been charged with a crime.
Also undisputed is that the Sheriff’s Office executed another warrant at the Falkville business of Glenda Lockhart, a blogger whose posts have targeted Franklin and the department for more than a year. Her business computers were seized. Once again, the warrant was secured with information from a confidential informant.
The identity of the informant also is not in dispute. He was the 20-year-old grandson of Lockhart. In a sworn statement, he claims he was paid by the Sheriff’s Office.
He also says the Sheriff’s Office provided him with keystroke logger software and instructions on how to use it, that he installed it on Lockhart’s computers, and that he used the information he secured to obtain her passwords.
He says he provided these passwords to the Sheriff’s Office.
Franklin denies any knowledge of the keystroke logger, and she says if he used one it would have violated his informant agreement.
Lockhart, in a federal lawsuit against Franklin and some of her deputies, claims Franklin’s investigation and her termination of Bradley are an effort to shut down the blog. Franklin denies it, but Lockhart isn’t the only one wondering. The sheriff’s constituents are understandably puzzled that she and her deputies are taking the lead in an investigation that looks vindictive, even if it’s not.

The mess with the blogger follows on the heels of another embarrassing situation. Franklin loaned now-bankrupt Priceville Partners LLC $150,000 of her own money. One of the owners of the venture, Greg Steenson, in 2002 pleaded guilty to bank fraud conspiracy charges related to a check kiting scheme and the presentation of false financial statements to banks for loans. He was sentenced to four years and three months in federal prison on the charges and ordered to pay millions in restitution.
Steenson was charged last year with multiple counts of theft and forgery in connection with his role in Priceville Partners and the used car dealership it owned, Performance Auto Sales.
The question, of course, is why the county’s chief law enforcement officer would invest money in a company owned in part by someone previously convicted of financial crimes?
Franklin has plenty of supporters, and she seems to have handled her duties as sheriff well. She has some explaining to do, however, if she is to maintain the respect of her constituents. 

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