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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Court motion questions sheriff's use of inmate food money; seeks contempt ruling By Keith Clines Staff Writer Feb 22, 2017

Blogger Comments to the Decatur Daily Article Below:

Wow!  Kudos to Keith Kline for laying out the story on the Morgan County Inmate Food Funds that reveals Sheriff Franklin told lie after lie about her use of inmate food funds for purposes other than feeding the inmates.  Now the plot thickens and Sheriff Ana Franklin has an additional $160,000.00 to explain, that is in an account in her name at Traditions Bank in Cullman, Alabama.  Folks, you can't make this stuff up.  We can't wait to see how she spins herself out of this one.  The Franklin saga sounds more like a drugstore novel than the reality most of us live in on a daily bases.

Gordon Lightfoot - If You Could Read My Mind ('74)

Morgan county Sheriff Ana Franklin

 A human rights group monitoring a federal lawsuit about conditions in the Morgan County Jail is asking that Sheriff Ana Franklin show why she should not be held in contempt for alleged misuse of money intended for feeding inmates and for failing to produce records required by a consent decree in the case.
The motion filed Tuesday by the Southern Center for Human Rights said Franklin removed $160,000 from the jail food account in 2015 despite a 2009 amended consent decree that money for feeding inmates “be used exclusively” for that purpose.
An unidentified attorney for Franklin told the center’s attorneys by telephone Jan. 30 that Franklin used the money to invest in a legitimate business, according to the motion. The business wasn't identified in the court pleading. A filing in federal bankruptcy court last year by Priceville Partners LLC, which operated Performance Auto used car dealership on Point Mallard Parkway, listed Franklin as a creditor. That filing listed Franklin as making a $150,000 loan to the company.
Franklin said at the time of the bankruptcy filing that the money for the 2015 loan was from her savings for retirement.
The center’s motion said financial records from the jail food account show Franklin used two cashier’s checks to withdraw $150,000 and $10,000, respectively, from the account at People’s Bank of Alabama in Decatur on June 5, 2015.
Attorneys for the center “repeatedly” requested documents from Franklin to show what she did with the $160,000, Sarah Geraghty, managing attorney at the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights, said in the motion.
The defendants have not produced proof of an investment or where the $160,000 was between its withdrawal and now, Geraghty said in the motion.
But, the motion said, Franklin’s story changed during a Feb. 10 meeting when her attorney told the center’s attorneys that Franklin removed the $160,000 “solely due to her concern about the account nearing the $250,000 FDIC insurance limit.”
The money, the center was told, was moved to an account in Franklin’s name at Traditions Bank in Cullman.
The center said Franklin declined to provide detailed records when it asked for documents showing any activity with the $160,000 since 2015. Franklin submitted a letter and a one-page printout dated Feb. 9 to show the account with a $160,000 balance, the motion said. The account is under the name "Ana Woodward Franklin, Food Account," according to the motion, and lists a Hartselle residential address.
“Plaintiffs intend to conduct discovery, as necessary, to address these conflicting claims about the use of public funds designated by the consent decree exclusively for the class members’ nutrition,” Geraghty said in the filing.
In general, state law allows sheriffs in Alabama to keep unspent money they receive to feed inmates.
Geraghty declined to comment on the motion she submitted Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern Division of Alabama.
Franklin’s attorney, Barney Lovelace, declined to comment on the motion.
Franklin did not respond to a text message seeking comment.
The motion asks that U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon set a hearing for Franklin to show why she should not be held in contempt and possibly fined for violating parts of the consent decree. It also asks that Franklin be forced to provide documents to account for all activity in the jail food account since June 5, 2015.
Franklin last month denied The Decatur Daily’s written request under the state open records law to provide detailed financial information about the inmate food account. She said in her denial that state law says “any such account is not considered a public account.”
A federal class-action lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Morgan County Jail inmates against Morgan County and Sheriff Steve Crabbe about conditions in the jail. The two parties agreed to a consent decree detailing jail improvements the county would make.
The consent decree was amended in 2009 to specifically require that any money the Morgan County sheriff receives for feeding inmates “will be used exclusively” for feeding inmates. The amended decree also gave the Southern Center for Human Rights the right to inspect financial records for all money received and spent to provide meals to inmates.
“The provision places no limits on the right of class members’ counsel to access relevant financial records, nor does it grant the sheriff a right to select which responsive financial records will or will not be disclosed,” Geraghty said in Tuesday’s motion.
The center’s motion said that, according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Franklin must comply with the consent decree because “public officials are ‘automatically substituted’ as parties to any case in which their predecessors in office were sued in their official capacity.”
The motion noted that former Sheriff Greg Bartlett was automatically substituted as a defendant when he succeeded Crabbe in office.
Retired U.S. District Court Judge U.W. Clemon, who presided over the lawsuit, said last month that his order about using inmate meal money only for food applies to whoever is sheriff. or 256-340-2438. Twitter @DD_KeithClines.

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