Saturday, March 31, 2018

Alabama Sheriffs Steal Money Meant For Prisoners

We should expect people to do the right thing, even when the law doesn't explicitly spell out the right thing. If the executor of an estate takes money for himself, even if that action isn't specifically banned under the state's relevant laws, most people would consider that not only theft but also especially foul theft given the circumstances. Similarly when society allocates money for the feeding and care of those who are incarcerated, most of us would think it particularly wicked for someone to steal that money for his own use. In Alabama, however they do things differently. It's considered smart, not corrupt, for sheriffs to take state, federal and municipal tax funds meant to feed prisoners and use the money for their personal purposes. Sheriff Todd Entrekin of Etowah County, Alabama, of whom it must be said does not look as if he has missed too many meals, argues that Alabama law allowed him over the past three years to pocket more than $750,000 in tax dollars earmarked for prisoner food and instead use the money to eat millions of barbecued pigs feet to purchase numerous homes for his wife and himself.

In September, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin and his wife Karen purchased an orange four-bedroom house with an in-ground pool and canal access in an upscale section of Orange Beach for $740,000.
To finance the purchase, Entrekin got a $592,000 mortgage from Peoples Bank of Alabama, according to public real estate records. The home is one of several properties with a total assessed value of more than $1.7 million that the couple own together or separately in Etowah and Baldwin counties.

Some Etowah County residents question how a county sheriff making a five-figure annual salary can afford to own multiple houses, including one worth nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

But ethics disclosure forms Entrekin filed with the state reveal that over the past three years he has received more than $750,000 worth of additional "compensation" from a source he identified as "Food Provisions."

Entrekin did not deny that he received the money when asked about it via email last week. Ethics forms he filed in previous years do not list any income from such a source.
Entrekin told AL.com last month that he has a personal account that he refers to as his "Food Provision" fund. And Etowah County resident Matthew Qualls said that in 2015 Entrekin paid him to mow his lawn via checks with the words "Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account" printed in the upper-left corner. AL.com viewed a photograph of one such check
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To give the devil his due, Entrekin is not the only Alabama sheriff to miss the difference between personal funds and public funds. It seems that the state has a pretty big problem with that sort of thing.

Alabama — Sheriffs in Alabama have found an unscrupulous means of stealing money from the taxpayers of their state by embezzling money from funds that are collected for the purpose of feeding inmates. It is not an isolated incident either.

In only three years, one Alabama sheriff stole over $110,000 in taxpayer dollars that was slated to feed inmates in the jail his department oversees. During the same period, another sheriff was caught writing checks for personal expenses from a similar taxpayer-funded program intended to feed inmates. Others were caught using the money to loan shark. None of the sheriffs has been charged and they all claim their outright theft of tax dollars is entirely legal.

These sheriffs and many more across the state of Alabama are now the subject of a lawsuit jointly filed Jan. 5 by the Southern Center for Human Rights and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice. 

“Our position is that this practice is illegal now, but it’s clear that many sheriffs believe its legal for them to do this,” Aaron Littman, a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights, told AL.com.

“Clearly this is a practice which is problematic because it creates an incentive for sheriffs to spend as little as possible on feeding folks … and obviously when a minimal amount of money is approved for something and less than that is spent, the quality suffers.” “I do it just like the law tells us to. That’s about all I have to say about that,” Tate said during a brief phone interview with AL.com Friday. “We feed all our inmates good and the excess goes to the sheriff. If you declare it excess, you take it and you pay taxes on it.” But that’s not all. A corrupt sheriff in Morgan County, Ana Franklin was caught using her inmate food fund to bankroll a used car lot which has since gone bankrupt—to the tune of $150,000. 
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We talk about corruption in so-called Third World countries but it seems to me that Alabama could probably teach some of those venal gendarmes a thing or two. It's amazing to me that this level of shady behavior has been tolerated for so long. Disgusting. If you are a law enforcement officer your role is to protect the public. It's not to enrich yourself at the expense of the taxpayers and those who are incarcerated. This practice needs to end. If the laws really don't prohibit this, which I doubt, then laws need to be updated to spell things out so damn clearly that even an Alabama Sheriff can understand them.
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