This article is not an original blog that was written by the morgancountywhistleblower. It was simply compiled and consolidated from the following previously published news articles:
The May/June 2010 edition of the Southern Family Magazine
A Birmingham News/AL.com article by Lee Roop on July 26, 2010
A Decatur Daily article by Sheryl Marsh on January 30, 2011
A Decatur Daily article by Sheryl Marsh on March 22, 2011
A Decatur Daily article by Sheryl Marsh on January 15, 2012
A WHNT/Channel 19 News article by Christine Killimayer on May 31, 2012
How Well Do We All Know Ana Maria Woodard Franklin?
A distinguished career in law enforcement led Ana Franklin to run as a candidate for Sheriff of Morgan County, Alabama.
Raised in Morgan County, and a graduate of Austin High School, Franklin studied accounting at Jacksonville State University and was running two businesses in the 1990s when she decided to take her love of breeding and training German Shepherd dogs to the next level.
She became a certified canine trainer and began working with area law enforcement agencies.
Franklin’s career in law enforcement began as a reserve officer in Limestone County working for Sheriff Mike Blakely. She handled the K-9 narcotics, explosives and search and rescue dogs. She graduated from the Jefferson County Law Enforcement Academy with the Academic Achievement Award and was vice president of her class. Returning to Morgan County, Franklin worked with the late Sheriff John McBride as an undercover narcotics and vice agent and K-9 handler. Franklin was assigned to the Morgan County Drug Task Force and worked with state, local and federal agencies as an undercover drug agent, investigating and infiltrating narcotics trafficking organizations.
She hit the streets in 2003 as an undercover drug investigator and "came out from under cover" in 2004 as a Morgan County sheriff's investigator.
It was her work in narcotics, though, that found her on the other side of the law. While undercover during a prostitution sting, an outside agency accidentally arrested her.
"I mean, I was truly undercover," said Franklin. "Yeah, I never got to work the thousand-dollar a night prostitution deals. They put me down at the 20 dollar a night prostitution deals, those were the kind I worked."
She was named Morgan County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2007. In 2008, the DEA presented her with the Agent Appreciation Award for work in a federal drug trafficking case for the U.S. Northern District.
She stayed in the department until 2008, when she left to open a gym and consider a run for sheriff.
Franklin received the endorsement of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the organization including officers serving at the federal, state and local levels and retired officers from various agencies.
“I’m very honored and excited that FOP has endorsed me as their choice for Morgan County’s Sheriff,” Franklin said. “I understand that this is the first time the sitting sheriff has not been endorsed by FOP. It’s a huge vote of confidence for me and my ability to serve as sheriff.”
Franklin had a plan to upgrade almost every area of the sheriff's department, but knew voters were especially interested in one area the sheriff controls - the jail.
Incumbent at the time, Sheriff Greg Bartlett, spent a night in federal custody himself in 2009 after a federal judge found he was underfeeding inmates. Bartlett was taking advantage of an Alabama law that lets sheriffs keep money left over after feeding prisoners. He admitted keeping $212,000 over three years.
"Many of our clients lost weight and went hungry because the portions were so small," said the attorney for prisoners who sued.
"I won't be keeping leftover jail money," Franklin said.
Two months before she took office, Franklin got an opinion from the county’s attorney about whether a federal court order prohibiting the sheriff from keeping inmate food money applied to her.
A bill from attorney Bill Shinn’s office showed that the County Commission paid $132 for legal advice Shinn gave Franklin in November. She took office in January of 2011.
Officials said Franklin had no authority to request the opinion because Sheriff Greg Bartlett was still in office.
County Commission Chairman Ray Long said he asked Shinn to reimburse the county, and Shinn said he has done so.
“The county shouldn’t have been billed for it. Of course, when I asked Mr. Shinn to reimburse it, he was more than willing to do so,” Long said.
Shinn’s charge was on the firm’s December bill to the county, and District 1 Commissioner Jeff Clark said he plans to pay closer attention to future bills.
“I glanced over it, but I didn’t catch that,” Clark said. “She’ll have to pay for that out of her pocket.”
Shinn said Franklin didn’t know he had billed the county for the opinion. He said Barney Lovelace, his law partner and Franklin’s attorney in another matter, asked him to give the opinion for her.
“There was no formal opinion given,” Shinn said when The Decatur Daily asked for a copy of the opinion. “She (Franklin) was interested in what her obligations were going to be. She was the sheriff-elect and I think she was legitimately trying to understand what the duties of her office are and this is one of the aspects of it.”
“The order refers to county defendants saying they shall do this or that, so the county has an interest in this, although most of what has to be done is by the sheriff,” Shinn said.
Mary Pons, attorney for the Association of County Commissions of Alabama, said she doesn’t know of any law that clearly addresses the opinion Franklin sought.
“I can’t think of anything I’ve ever seen for or against that,” Pons said. “If it were me, I would have gone through the County Commission and asked them to get the opinion for me.”
The inmate food fund is under watch by attorneys who filed the lawsuit for inmates.
The federal court order allows for Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights attorneys to conduct random checks of the jail and financial records. Attorney Melanie Velez said they do the random audits twice a year and will continue to do so.
Velez said the judge’s order is clear: “The federal consent order and subsequent revisions were binding on the former sheriff and must be followed by the current Morgan County sheriff.”
The balance in the inmate food account is $102,000, according to a clerk. The state pays $1.75 per inmate for each day, and the federal government pays about $3 per meal for each federal inmate housed there.
County Attorney Bill Shinn rendered an opinion about whether Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin is bound by a federal court order that prohibits the sheriff from keeping leftover inmate food money for personal use.
Shinn said he gave an informal opinion to Franklin’s attorney and his law partner, Barney Lovelace, that the court order applied to Franklin.
A note Shinn attached to case law he gave Lovelace to back his opinion read: “Barney, the attached FR CiVP 25 (d) (1) answers your question to Sheriff Franklin’s liability in the (Sheriff Greg) Bartlett jail case.”
Franklin was sheriff-elect when Shinn gave the opinion in November. She defeated Bartlett in a Republican primary runoff in July and a Democratic contender in the general election.
U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon’s 2009 order states:
“The sheriff of Morgan County shall immediately establish and implement a procedure whereby all funds provided by any source for the feeding of inmates, including funds from the state of Alabama, any municipality, and the federal government will be used exclusively for the feeding of said inmates incarcerated in the Morgan County Detention Facility.”
The state pays $1.75 per inmate each day and the federal government pays about $3 per day for each federal inmate.
Franklin created controversy from the moment she took office a year ago.
She immediately demoted and later fired the commander of the department’s drug task force. Subsequent issues arose, one involving Franklin hiring a campaign supporter and placing him in a lead position that other deputies were not offered.
A day after she took office on Jan. 18, 2011, Franklin demoted Doug Key, commander of the Drug Task Force, from lieutenant to sergeant and fired him on , citing insubordination.
“Restructuring the task force is the best thing I’ve done,” she said. “We’ve been able to mend relationships with other agencies, which gives us added resources and more committed involvement to do what it takes to make a dent in our drug problem.”
Under Key’s leadership, Morgan County was ranked No. 1 in the state in busting meth labs, according to testimony given by Bartlett at Key’s personnel hearing in April.
Another issue of controversy came when Franklin hired Ron Livingston, 72, one of her campaign workers, as a captain.
Initially, Livingston failed agility tests to become a certified officer, but Franklin said he passed them recently.
She said Livingston is doing what she needs him to do.
Sheriff Franklin was dissatisfied, however, with the $180,000 left in her department’s discretionary fund when she took office, but her predecessor says she should be thankful.
Former Sheriff, Greg Bartlett, said before leaving office that he was leaving $800,000 in discretionary money.
Franklin said that was before bills were paid.
“I’m sure at some point he may have had $800,000 before he paid for cars and other bills, but it’s not that now,” said Franklin, who was sworn into office . “It’s definitely going to put us in a bind to do some of the things we need to do because it’s just about all spent.”
The money is separate from the Sheriff’s Department’s budgets and from the county’s general fund.
Discretionary funds come from pistol permit fees, background checks, civil fees, monetary seizures in criminal cases, booking fees, the jail commissary and housing federal inmates. The sheriff may use the money to make purchases or finance projects for law enforcement.
Franklin had records that showed Bartlett’s spending included 23 new vehicles that cost $540,054.16 and computer software for $288,218.23. Bartlett said all the purchases were made during 2010 and the vehicles were purchased because the County Commission didn’t allocate funds for them. He said some of the bills were paid before he left office and some were paid after he left office.
Bobby Timmons, Director of the Alabama Sheriffs Association, said sheriffs can use all the discretionary money before leaving office, but they have to justify the spending.
“You don’t sit there and spend it because you lost a race,” Timmons said. “There is no place for political spoils. Way back down the line, we’ve seen them purchase stuff that the department needed, but while they were in office they didn’t want to use the money. When they’re leaving office, they’ve been known to buy things like bulletproof vests or automobiles that they didn’t buy while in office.”
“Deputies and investigators needed equipment, and I made sure they had it before I left,” he said. “My goal was to take care of the sheriff’s office, and I did. I wish her (Franklin) and the department well. I want the county to be protected, and I hope she does a good job.”
Franklin said she appreciated the vehicle purchases.
“The good thing is that we won’t have to buy new vehicles,” she said.
The County Commission provides the sheriff’s budgets for the office and jail. The money is given at the beginning of each fiscal year, and the current budget for the sheriff’s office is $3.7 million.
The jail budget is $4.5 million. Since , Bartlett has used 33 percent each of the office and jail budgets, according to commission office records.
Bartlett said Franklin’s discretionary funds will be restored quickly.
“She makes about $200,000 on federal inmate housing and the jail store brings about $100,000 a year,” he said.
The sheriff gets $40 for each inmate per day, and $3 of the amount is for feeding each inmate every day.
Half of the federal inmate money goes to the commission for payment on the jail that was built in 2006.
County Commission Chairman Ray Long said the sheriff’s office and jail budgets are sufficient for operating costs.
“I don’t think we’ll have to give her more money,” Long said. “The discretionary money is for things they purchase outside of the budget. She appears to be in good shape with the budgets.”