Good evening everyone ! Tomorrow is a very important day for our county and our state. Because I am not seeking the office of Sheriff next term, many of you over the past several weeks have asked for my opinion on who I think is best suited to serve our county. I have kept that to myself and don’t feel that I should influence the election in any manner for the voters. What I have found over the past several months is many misconceptions that are being tossed around by folks about the office. There are some important things to consider when going to the polls tomorrow to cast your vote.
The Sheriff is an elected official. It is an office, answering directly to the people, the voters. It is not a department. The sheriff isn’t a department head. It is a constitutional executive office - and as a constitutional official, we must be aware that there are certain powers and responsibilities that are constitutionally required of the sheriff and that follows his deputies as his appointees.
There are not 16 discretionary funds - they are audited by the State of Alabama Department of Public Examiners. They are all available to the public and the County Commission on the State website. All expenses and revenues are audited and are governed and dictated by by state laws and local acts and must only be used for the purposes that the law allows.
The school resource program in Morgan County was not in existence until Bill Hopkins, the School Board, myself, and those in our office worked out a plan to provide deputies in the county schools without a budget. The County Commission does not provide funding for these contract deputies. They do not provide training nor equipment for these resource officers. They are contract deputies and have no benefits nor are they employees. The county general fund does not contribute to these school resource officers. They are paid by the school board and the sheriffs discretionary funds. They are specially trained and all are certified. There aren’t enough of them and they don’t get paid nearly what they are worth ! They teach DARE, they do community events and are an asset to our schools and our children’s safety.
The Morgan County Narcotics deputies are some of the best in the state. They have worked tirelessly to help with our drug problem. The grant which funded overtime costs ended in 2015 and was restructured. This was at no fault of the Sheriffs office nor the deputies.
The commissary in the jail was completely restructured when I came into office. One of the candidates was quoted as saying that the jail store price gouged the inmates and charges prices 3 times that of convenient stores. This is absolutely false. We have prices lower than that of most all convenient stores. My direction to our commissary provider was that we will never take advantage of our inmates and their families. We immediately lowered prices and increased the inventory. We routinely price check the items and insure that prices are fair. Today I got the listing again and made trips to 3 different stores again, one of them was the Dollar General Store. The prices on most all
of the items are lower than the MAPCO and Pilot- many were comparable or the same as the Dollar General. I will post a sampling of these items and the comparisons in a separate post.
The jail is the largest liability in the county. I take very seriously my obligation and responsibility not only to our citizens outside the jail, but to those I have care over. We have many many programs inside our facility that are volunteer oriented and faith based. They are at no cost to you. They are geared to help those inmates that qualify re enter society at a better place than they came to us. That is not only my constitutional obligation, but my moral and ethical responsibility as a Christian.
We are now out from almost all elements of a 17 year federal consent decree that cost this county millions of dollars. This is due to new policy, new training, and a lot of emphasis placed on restructuring the Jail and operating under a constitutional legal based guidelines approach. We are extremely proud to have accomplished this. The new Sheriff will have to understand and comply with the ever changing court opinions and laws which mandate the operation of jails and the care and custody of inmates to insure that we do not seep backwards in order to save money.
The Office of Sheriff is that of the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the County. I have 197 law enforcement employees under my direction. The majority of my day is administrative, way more than I like - It’s dealing with budgets and lawsuits and policy and employee issues all of which is based on the knowledge of the law and what is required of law enforcement officers. It’s also a working position. I review cases, I consult with prosecutors and my deputies, I make cases. I take statements, I testify in court - I think all of that is important and required of the Sheriff, especially for a county our size.
I have attempted to work with our county commission. We have stayed in budget and we have provided services to our community while funding has been cut- many many line items are no longer funded and aren’t even available anymore. We supplement those necessary needs with sheriffs discretionary funds. The new sheriff will be able to make those choices as he sees fit within what the law provides.
The pistol permit cost is set by local act. It cannot be changed without a new local act of the legislature. Pistol permits are governed by state law. The Sheriff has very little discretion in that matter.
I hope this helps some of you to understand what an important responsibility the sheriff has to our community. It is a working position. It is a constitutional office. And it is your elected law enforcement for the county. The office comes with great power and great responsibility and directly affects your community and your family. These are a few of the issues that have been brought to my attention and have been asked for clarification. Hope it helps some. :)
I am so honored to have been one of the people that was given the opportunity to serve you. I am proud of the men and women that work with me. I like to think we got it right more than we missed it. I would
like to thank you all sincerely for your friendship and your prayers and support throughout these years. I pray continually for our county, our office and for the next person that steps into this role. The next four years will certainly be challenging and difficult for who ever holds that office. I wish them truly the best and hope only success for who ever that you choose.