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Sunday, January 29, 2017
Morgan County Commission not interested in taking over jail inmate food program By Keith Clines Staff Writer Jan 29, 2017
Blogger Comments: Over the past four years Franklin has been very tight with State Attorney General Luther Strange. On several occasions, she has even told employees and others that the AG told her that the whistleblower is DELUSIONAL. We have proven our case to the citizens about Franklin's conduct and those of the thugs she surrounds herself with. Once someone with enough steel in their behinds comes into the sheriff's office and conducts forensic audits on the sheriff's office account, we believe the issues will become far bigger than the $160,000.00 that is currently in question, and a mere drop in the bucket.
We know of an inmate right now who has been in the Morgan County Jail for 17 months. The inmate according to his family has lost over 100 lbs, was denied medical treatment until a couple of months ago, and has not had adequate food according to his family. The inmate's punishment is being in jail. They should not be denied medical treatment and adequate food. We have not seen this inmate first hand but if what we hear is true it is just wrong. We are sending the judge information that we have as well. We do not know if the judge will review the information but we hope he does. The Daily reports all the wrongdoings of the inmate that filed the most recent complaint to the courts. The inmate's punishment for his long list of illegal activities in being in jail. The inmate's crimes should not be the forefront of the issue. The inmates are doing what they are forced to do. They are serving their time for their punishment. Hunger, inadequate medical treatment, overcrowding, and excessive tazing of inmates is not acceptable in today's society. We encourage our readers to go back in time and read our previous blogs on these subjects and the sheriff's budget.
We know first hand from previous corrections officers that the jail is understaffed. We as well as Ray Long knows that Franklin revised the court security positions to include correction officers in their job descriptions. It appears now that at any given time Franklin has more corrections officers that she does. We hear stories from current and previous corrections officers that many times only have one or maybe two corrections officers to the pod. To hire corrections officers Franklin sent out job announcements for temporary employees. Our concerns are not to bad mouth the corrections officers that are currently on staff but to expose the dangers within the jail without adequate staffing.
We also noticed that Franklin's attorney Lovelace did not comment on the inmate's food fund. Sheriff Franklin and Lovelace knew before Franklin touched a dime of inmate food funds that is was forbidden. If Lovelace and Franklin thought that the Amended Decree did not apply to Franklin they could have easily submitted a request for clarification to the Federal Courts for an official opinion prior to Franklin dipping into the inmate food funds. Another concern we have is that Franklin withdrew the money the first week of June 2015. The end of the Fiscal year wasn't until September 30, 2015.
There is a lot wrong with this picture and as investigations progress, we believe that much worse fraud, waste, and abuse will be revealed.
Decatur Daily Article Sunday, January 29, 2017:
Morgan County Commission Chairman Ray Long said Sheriff Ana Franklin told him she has not misused money intended to feed jail inmates, and he said the County Commission has no desire to assume responsibility of feeding inmates.
Long also said he believes the county is complying with a federal consent decree order that requires the county to provide adequate housing and services to jail inmates.
Franklin has denied The Decatur Daily’s public records request for financial information about the jail inmate food account on the basis that it is her personal money.
State law allows a sheriff to keep money that is not spent to feed jail inmates except where a county commission adopts a resolution to assume responsibility for feeding inmates.
But U.S. District Court Judge U.W. Clemon, who is now retired, wrote in a 2009 consent decree amendment that all money the Morgan County sheriff receives for feeding inmates “will be used exclusively” for feeding inmates. Clemon recently said the order applies to Franklin, who was not the sheriff in 2009.
If Franklin is using the inmate food money for any purpose other than feeding inmates, it is “clearly” a violation of the 2009 order, Clemon said recently.
The consent decree was the result of a 2001 class-action lawsuit filed by Morgan County Jail inmates against the county and Sheriff Steve Crabbe about conditions in the jail.
There had been no action in the lawsuit for two years until two weeks ago, when an inmate filed a hand-written motion for the county to show it is complying with the consent decree or be held in contempt.
Long said he asked Franklin about the inmate food account because of rumors he had heard that she was using the money for personal items.
“She assured me that she hasn’t used any of the money for herself,” Long said Friday of his face-to-face meeting with Franklin in his office.
Decatur lawyer Barney Lovelace, who represents Franklin, said Friday he would not comment on the jail food account.
An audit released in February 2015 by the Alabama Department of Public Accounts of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office showed a balance of $199,204.82 in the food and service account on May 31, 2014.
The state audit covered a 2½-year period from Dec. 1, 2011, through May 31, 2014. It is the latest state audit of the Sheriff’s Office. Franklin took office in early 2011.
The food account gained $70,691.12, from $128,513.70 on Dec. 1, 2011, to $199,204.82 on May 31, 2014, the audit showed.
During the 30-month period covered by the audit, the Sheriff’s Office received $778,373 and spent $717,681.88 to feed inmates. The incoming money was from the state and other agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, to house and feed inmates.
The state pays the county $1.75 per inmate for each day a state inmate is in the jail. The federal government pays the county about $3 for each meal served to a federal inmate in the jail.
Former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett testified in 2009 that he had kept about $212,000 in unspent inmate food money over three years.
State law allows a county commission to adopt a resolution to be in charge of feeding jail inmates and directing any leftover money to the county’s general fund.
The Morgan commission has no interest in removing the responsibility from the sheriff, Long said.
“We think that the system we have, if used properly, is very adequate to feed inmates,” he said.
Long said the county would have to hire someone to oversee food preparation, meal plans and more if the county was in charge of feeding inmates.
“We’d have to be over there all the time making sure that we have the right food over there and that we have a dietitian over there,” Long said. “I’m not interested in doing it all.”
Long said he has not received any complaints about the meals served to jail inmates.
Tuscaloosa and Madison counties are among the few counties in the state where the local county commission is in charge of its jail inmate food account.
Tuscaloosa County lost nearly $344,000 feeding its jail inmates in fiscal 2016, according to county Chief Financial Officer Bill Lamb. The county received $312,128 to feed inmates and spent $655,890, he said.
“I don’t see how we could make money on food,” Lamb said.
The expenses were for food and related materials, and do not include the salaries of three jail cooks employed by the county, Lamb said.
Tuscaloosa and Morgan counties both have a jail with a capacity of 500 inmates.
In Limestone County, Sheriff Mike Blakely gave up pocketing leftover money from feeding inmates in 2010 when the Legislature passed a bill that set his salary at 85 percent of the salary of the highest paid circuit court judge.
Blakely said Friday that any money left over from feeding inmates stays in the account.
“When I leave office, it stays in there for the next administration,” he said.
Blakely said the account had a net gain of between $5,000 and $10,000 in fiscal 2016. He could not recall the present balance in the account.
Several attempts seeking information about Madison County’s jail inmate meal program were unsuccessful.
John Kister, who is in Morgan County Jail on eight counts of first-degree robbery, filed a motion in federal court Jan. 17 asking that Morgan County show why it should not be held in civil contempt of the 2001 consent decree.
Kister, 52, of Decatur, cited problems with crowding, meals, medical treatment excessive force and other issues that he said he has encountered while in jail since May 16, 2015, court records show.
U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon has given the county until Friday to respond to Kister’s motion.
Kallon has scheduled a 2 p.m. Monday telephone conference with attorneys on both sides to discuss the status of the case.