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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Political Scandals On Parade

BLOGGER COMMENTS:  Your attention is invited to read the following editorial from the Daily.  It captures the sentiments of this Blog and no doubt the sentiments of most of our followers.  You may also note that none of these 'public servants' are behind bars.


Editorial: Alabama's list of political scandals grows



The Issue


With the arrest of Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely on 13 counts of theft and ethics violations, the list of political scandals both locally and statewide grows.
The list is becoming long.
Last month, Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely became the latest Alabama law enforcement official to find himself on the opposite side of the law.
Blakely, 68, has been Limestone County’s top law enforcement officer since 1983. This past January he began his 10th term in office. Rarely has he faced more than token opposition when running for reelection.
But in late August, Blakely was booked into his own jail after a Limestone County grand jury indicted him on 13 counts of theft and violations of state ethics law.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office said the charges include taking money from campaign and law enforcement funds and using his position to get interest-free loans.
The case is being prosecuted by the Alabama attorney general’s Special Prosecutions Division.
Last October, the Alabama Ethics Commission found probable cause that Blakely violated the state’s ethics law and voted to refer the case to the state Attorney General’s Office for further investigation.
“Sheriff Blakely’s not guilty of any of these charges,” said attorney Robert Tuten, who along with Mark McDaniel of Huntsville is representing Blakely. “He will plead not guilty at the appropriate time. We intend to try the case and let the citizens of Limestone County hear the evidence and let them make the decision on that.”
While Blakely’s case will be resolved in the courts, hearing Blakely was “booked into his own jail” must have struck a familiar note with many in Morgan County.
Former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett was booked into his own jail after a judge ruled he was in violation of a court order involving the proper feeding of jail inmates.
The jail food scandal, born of a now-superseded law that allowed county sheriffs to keep funds leftover from the feeding of jail inmates as pay, plagued what ended up being Bartlett’s final term in office. His nickname, “Sheriff Corndog,” still crops up whenever a scandal related to the old jail food law crops up.
And they do crop up. Former Pickens County sheriff David Abston pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return after being accused of scamming a food bank and church, and pocketing leftover money meant for feeding inmates, reported The Associated Press.
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin lost his reelection bid after tax forms showed he made a profit of $672,392 from the county jail’s kitchen in 2015 and 2016.
Bartlett’s successor, Ana Franklin, fared no better. She declined to run for a third term after a scandal-plagued second term, which involved lawsuits, bankruptcies and misuse of jail food money.
Franklin recently settled a lawsuit over her retention of state money designated for the feeding of inmates.
It’s not just sheriffs who have gotten into trouble. In the past three years, Alabama has seen the removal from office of its governor, House speaker, House majority leader and state Supreme Court chief justice, just to cite those at the top of the state’s power structure.
Blakely’s attorneys blame vague ethics laws under which, they say, almost anything can be a violation. Former House Speaker Mike Hubbard maintains much the same.
Without passing judgment on the particulars of any of their cases, however, we doubt Alabama ethics laws are too tough — although we also note toughness and vagueness are not the same thing. 

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