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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Ouch

Blogger Comments:  Stinging words from Decatur Daily Editorial.  This is what happens when you lie, cheat, and steal the public you were sworn to serve and protect.

Our local elected officials must be feeling the same sting from Ana’s deceit as well.  They have worked with and believed in Sheriff Ana Franklin.  She has let all of us down.  We have all been betrayed.


Sheriff has problem with contempt, Decatur Daily Editorial, March 22, 2017


The Issue

Sheriff Ana Franklin’s arguments to a federal court about her use of inmate food money are disturbing. Whether or not she showed contempt for the court, she failed to respect the trust placed in her by Morgan County citizens.

Sheriff Ana Franklin’s recent arguments to a federal court may carry the day legally, but they raise serious issues for her constituents.
In 2009, the former sheriff, Greg Bartlett, entered into a consent decree that was signed by federal District Judge U.W. Clemon. A consent decree means what it says — both sides agreed to it before the judge issued the order. The decree was absolutely clear: “The Sheriff of Morgan County shall immediately establish and implement a procedure whereby all funds provided by any source for the feeding of inmates ... will be used exclusively for the feeding of said inmates ... .”
It was a significant order because it changed, for Morgan County, the archaic state law allowing sheriffs to keep excess taxpayer-funded inmate food money for themselves. It effectively decreased the maximum possible salary for the Morgan County sheriff.
Franklin understood this. Before taking office, she asked former county attorney Bill Shinn if the order applied to her. His answer: Yes. He referenced a federal rule stating she would automatically became a party to the consent decree when she became the sheriff. Bartlett couldn’t pocket money that was designated for inmate food, and neither could she.
But Franklin did it anyway. She loaned $150,000 from the inmate food account for a personal investment, a loan to an auto dealership run by a convicted felon. The company went bankrupt, and the previously convicted felon is now facing more charges. It’s hard to overstate the poor judgment that went into the sheriff’s decision.
On Friday, Franklin’s lawyers filed a brief seeking to explain why their client should not be held in contempt of the 2009 consent decree. While Franklin had previously said the ill-fated loan to the car dealership was from “savings for retirement,” her lawyers acknowledged Friday it had come from the food account. And even though they said she had every right to spend that money as her own, they also noted she had since replenished the account with her own money. The lawyers proceeded to make some reasonable arguments. The order agreed to in 2009 was too broad, they said. Bartlett, desperate to extricate himself from an earlier order naming a previous sheriff, had promised too much. It’s unfair to hold Franklin to a consent decree that was agreed to by her predecessor when he was desperate, they complained.
Time will tell whether the court is convinced by Friday’s brief, but the sheriff’s constituents have reason to be troubled.
Before Franklin even started the job, she had received advice from the county attorney that the inmate food money was not hers. State law did not matter; a specific federal order controlled use of the money in Morgan County.
Franklin had options.
One, she could have settled for her $68,000-per-year salary. If the salary was inadequate, she shouldn’t have campaigned for the job.
Two, she could have made precisely the same arguments to the court that her lawyers made Friday, but made them before she spent the taxpayer-funded money. She could have petitioned the court to amend or vacate the 2009 order, explaining that it was too cumbersome. She could have argued, as her lawyers did after the fact, that she was feeding the inmates adequately and that the consent decree was too broad.
Such an effort would have been public, though. It would have been embarrassing. And, significantly, the court might have turned her down.
So Franklin did not ask. She just took the money, like a kid raiding the cookie jar figuring it was easier to ask forgiveness if discovered than to ask permission. She rejected public records requests from The Decatur Daily, and her claim that the money was from retirement savings was, at best, misleading.
The judge will have to decide whether Franklin was in contempt of court. Either way, she showed considerable contempt for the voters and taxpayers who trusted her to be the county’s chief law enforcement officer.

11 comments:

  1. So, exactly how can a Federal consent decree change a State Law?
    Before any of y'all Internet Attorneys say "Federal law overrides State Law"...a decree isn't legislation. Please enlighten me on the constitutionality of this.
    I'll hang up and listen.

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    1. If the consent decree contained the stipulation that the Sheriff of Morgan County was to eat food from the jail kitchen three times per week, would every sheriff have to follow this rule for eternity? Would they be sued if not in compliance with the "jail food three times a week" clause?
      Certainly not.

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  2. Can anyone show me law that says a state or organization does not have to obey a federal consent decree? This is by far the better question.

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    1. This statement only acts to expose your ignorance of the law, and definition of those terms. You should just stop, before you embarrass yourself further.

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    2. I agree to aspects of both comments to a degree. However, just making the statement "ignorance of the law" makes me think you're not very well knowledgeable in it either based on known history and facts. To an extent anonymous with "the better question" has a very valid point. Understand important details folks, this originally started with a decree in 2001 with crabbe. If Bartlett was found in contempt based on a 2001 decree...what makes you think Ana won't be held in contempt also for a 2009 decree?? I see two major points: 1.) I want to see bank accounts. 2.) I want to see if those inmates have been fed, medically cared for, and treated properly. If not, you're in contempt. (Although I do know Ana has been "shaping up" quickly recently to appease the courts) You can't always base what you see in the now as a variable outcome for the future. Amended is for a reason, if our federal judges see a real habitual problem in our county, I certainly will be proud of them for being fair and holding public officials in contempt based on accountability and on past facts. To be fair, there is the law to adhere too, but there is also morals, principles, ethics, and common sense that plays a major role as well. If Ana used Bartlett's issues for her campaign and turned around and did the same thing... Why in the world would she think those monies would now belong to her? Well, first I should mention she lied a few times before admitting where they came from and additionally she had a paper trail, it didn't help her. Many things will play a major role in the outcome. Let us all be mindful and respectful of each other's opinions!

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  3. I also want to see the bank account. I also would like to know how much money was paid to Ana from Title Mart. I also want to Know how a sheriff making 68000.00 a year came up with 320000.00 in such a short period of time. She is the top elected law enforcement official in Morgan County. All of her sources of income should be open public record. How do we know if she is being paid by drug dealers, crooks or others.

    This position should be held with honor and Pride. Not lies and deceit.

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    1. None of this matters one bit of Federal court decides the excess food money is her personal money, in accordance with state law.

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    2. Are you accusing the Sheriff of taking bribe money from drug dealers?

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  4. Thank you Decatur Daily for exposing the truth. Ana is guilty and needs to hand over bank statements...that is if she hasn't paid someone off to change those also.

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  5. What a world we live in! A man, who boldly lies on the regular gets elected president, then fires a man for lying to the vice president, but refuses to fire the AG who lies to congress & the American people. The same man bragged about crimes he’s committed. Morgan County elected a sheriff who lied about being transparent in general, and specifically saying she would not use the inmate food money. After lying about taking the food money [(1.) got it from savings/retirement, (2.) removed it over concern about it reaching the insurance limit, (3). Took it, but returned it back], now admits to doing just that. One lie begets another!
    The judge in this matter did the same as Judge Clemons did in the previous ruling in this matter, in that neither ruled upon the legality of state law. Contempt has to do with obeying the court’s order. Sheriff Franklin admitted to violating the court order by signing the ”statement of facts”. What will be her punishment? Judge Clemons punished Sheriff Bartlett by jailing him for contempt of the consent order, not state law. The current Judge has not punished Franklin based upon her failing to obey the consent order, but has decided to rule on the legality of her keeping the money. What strikes me is that both judges seem to be trying to cue appropriate agencies (legislature, DA, or AG) to do their jobs. Clemons put lawmakers on notice about how archaic and ridiculous the state law is today, but recognized that it was not his place to change it. Immediately following his ruling, there was a major call by law makers and citizens to change the state law! The current judge this week has given the “smoking gun” for whoever (DA, AG, or whoever) would be responsible for charging Sheriff Franklin with theft. She has admitted to taking it, returning it, and lied about it, which showed her motive and “consciousness of guilt”. Once charged, additional evidence could likely be gained by subpoenaing bank records, tax records, & the yearly economic statement required of elected officials. Justice requires that Franklin be punished for contempt (failure to obey the court order), regardless of whether it is ruled that she may keep the excess money. Such interpretation would further point to improper or illegal conduct on her part since she withdrew the money before the fiscal year was over and could not be considered excess.
    In summary, Franklin pledged not to use the food money, got a legal opinion advising her that she could not do so, and either (1) decided to defy both legal counsel and the judge’s order, or (2) decided to steal it. Her conduct and the time line of her behavior suggest the latter. Why lie or be deceptive about taking it, but after being exposed (remember the published checks), replacing it? She should resign or be removed from office as her conduct falls far short of the integrity required of her title – Sheriff.

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