2 years ago

Alabama sheriff pocketing $750,000 in jail-food money draws new attention to old law

A recent report about the more than $750,000 that Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin has pocketed over the last three years in extra “Food Provisions” money has reinvigorated attention into a state law that allows sheriffs to keep leftover money not used to feed inmates.

The report, authored by Birmingham News reporter Connor Sheets, details how Entrekin used the money to purchase a $740,000 home in Orange Beach last September, raising questions of whether the sheriff is doing right by inmates and taxpayers by keeping the money.

Entrekin has defended himself against insinuations of illegality or misconduct, saying he has followed the law.

“The Food Bill is a controversial issue that’s used every election cycle to attack the Sheriff’s Office,” Entrekin told NPR News. “Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law.”

The chief argument against the law used to justify such behavior was summarized by Aaron Littman, a staff attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights who in conjunction with the Alabama Appleseed Center has sued 49 Alabama sheriffs for access to records dealing with inmate feeding funds.

“This archaic system is based on a dubious interpretation of state law that has been rejected by two different Attorneys General of Alabama, who concluded that the law merely allows sheriffs to manage the money and use it for official purposes–not to line their own pockets,” Littman said in a statement in January. “It also raises grave ethical concerns, invites public corruption, and creates a perverse incentive to spend as little as possible on feeding people who are in jail.”

Critics cite the case of former Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett, who was ordered by a federal judge to stop personally taking money from the inmate-food account when prisoners testified to receiving inadequate meals.

Some sheriffs have told a different story about their responsibilities to feed inmates.

Colbert County Sheriff Frank Williamson, one of the sheriffs on the lawsuit, told WAAY 31 in January that he had to take out a $10,000 loan to help pay for meals because the $1.75 per diem per inmate wasn’t covering the bill.

“I had to borrow money to do this on my own personal social security number and I still owe money on that,” Williamson told WAAY 31.

13 hours ago

UA Dance Marathon raises over $307,000 for Children’s Miracle Network

The University of Alabama Dance Marathon (UADM) announced Monday that it raised $307,843.20 for Children’s of Alabama during its most recent fundraiser, which takes place annually.

The total raised was presented during the organization’s recent BAMAthon event, the organization’s 13.1-hour dance marathon. Over the course of nine years at the University of Alabama, more than $1.6 million has been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in Birmingham.

Current and former patients of Children’s of Alabama, referred to as “Miracle Kids,” attended the event to share their stories with those participating in the event.

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For the parents of Brayden Butler, “known to friends and family as B.B., a 13-year-old Miracle Kid from Chelsea who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2014, UADM represents a place of belonging and an opportunity to find hope and healing.”

“B.B. deals with challenges due to his disability,” said Christie Butler, Brayden’s mother. “UADM has shown B.B. that there is a bigger purpose out there. It gives him a platform to reach others about all the good things that come from Children’s of Alabama.”

Lily Klootwyk, president of UADM 2020, offered her thanks to those who helped raise money and produce the event.

“UADM is a special organization full of people who are going to change this world,” Klootwyk said. “We’ve accomplished nothing alone and everything together.”

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

13 hours ago

Alabama Realtors Association announces primary endorsements

The political arm of the Alabama Association of Realtors on Monday announced its endorsement of candidates for Alabama’s upcoming March 3 primary elections.

The list of Alabama Realtors Political Action Committee (ARPAC) endorsements includes candidates respectively for the Public Service Commission, Supreme Court and Courts of both Civil and Criminal Appeals. Further, the National Association of Realtors PAC has announced endorsements in each of the state’s seven U.S. House districts. According to a release, all the announced candidates endorsed exhibited a commitment to home ownership, private property rights and economic growth.

“The real estate industry and Alabama’s economy are dependent upon each other to remain healthy and thriving,” stated Forrest Meadows, ARPAC trustees chair. “We look for candidates who understand the relationship between the two, and share the REALTOR® vision of protecting private property owners against harmful legislation and fighting for policies that will aid in the development of prosperous communities and businesses across the state.”

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“We feel strongly that these candidates will work hard to ensure private property rights remain a top priority and support efforts for economic growth and homeownership in Alabama,” added Jeremy Walker, Alabama Association of Realtors CEO.

ARPAC endorsements as follows:

For president of the Alabama Public Service Commission:

Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh

For Alabama Supreme Court Place 2 Associate Justice:

Brad Mendheim

For Alabama Court of Civil Appeals:

Place 1: Bill Thompson
Place 2: Matt Fridy

For Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals:

Place 1: Mary Windom
Place 2: Beth Kellum

The National Association of Realtors endorsed the following congressional candidates:

U.S. House of Representatives, District 1: Chris Pringle
U.S. House of Representatives, District 2: Jeff Coleman
U.S. House of Representatives, District 3: Mike Rogers
U.S. House of Representatives, District 4: Robert Aderholt
U.S. House of Representatives, District 5: Mo Brooks
U.S. House of Representatives, District 6: Gary Palmer
U.S. House of Representatives, District 7: Terri Sewell

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Did Tuberville really say government handouts for illegal aliens are ‘Donald Trump’s fault’?

On Monday, a national news outlet shared a truncated clip from a 2019 speech by Tommy Tuberville that makes it seem like the U.S. Senate candidate and former Auburn University head football coach blamed President Donald Trump for illegal aliens receiving free government handouts.

The speech in question was first reported on by Yellowhammer News way back in August. National outlets at the time jumped on Tuberville’s comments, because he did indeed ding Trump for what Tuberville viewed as a lack of progress when it comes to the state of veterans’ healthcare in the United States.

However, a reporter from Breitbart News on Monday posted an isolated audio clip from that speech, alleging that Tuberville was focusing his criticism of the president on immigration. The headline read, “Tommy Tuberville in Unearthed Remarks: ‘We’re Paying for Illegals to Come Over Here … That’s Donald Trump’s Fault.’” The article also claimed that the remarks were “previously not reported on.”

Here’s the full part of Tuberville’s speech in question:

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I’m pissed off at Donald Trump that our vets can’t get health care. And if I ever get to see him, I’m going to tell him that. You said you were going to fix it and it ain’t fixed. And that’s who we ought to be taking care of — these young men and women. I’ve had them come up to me and cry. ‘Coach, we can’t get health care. Nobody will take care of us.’ 22 vets every day – every day are committing suicide. We can’t take care of them. We won’t take care of them. We’re paying for illegals to come over here – everything they’re getting: cell phones, health care, everything they want. That’s Donald Trump’s fault. That’s his fault. He’s got to get it done. That’s one of the most important things I think we need to do because we send young men and women over to fight for us, put their life on the line and we don’t take care of them? What are we doing? What are we doing?

I’m a Donald Trump guy, but there are things that he hasn’t done yet that we got to get done. And I think he’s had to fight every battle by himself. He can’t get to all of them because nobody is helping him. Nobody is standing up for him.

And here’s the audio snippet from that speech released on Monday:

This same reporter has hit Tuberville on the immigration issue in the past, and the latest article comes on the heels of Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01), one of Tuberville’s GOP opponents, releasing a television ad accusing the former coach of supporting “amnesty.” Tuberville contends that his comments referenced in the Byrne ad were focused on legal immigration, rather than amnesty for illegal aliens. Tuberville has forcefully denied being for amnesty.

Reacting to the latest Breitbart piece on Monday, Tuberville commented in a statement to Yellowhammer News, “The Tuberville plan to fight illegal immigration mirrors everything Donald Trump has said on the issue. We’ve got to close our borders, protect American jobs, stop illegal drugs, and block terrorists from sneaking into our country.”

“The Trump administration believes we must prioritize skilled workers who apply to come here legally so they can do the jobs that Americans just don’t want to do,” he continued. “I’m simply backing President Trump’s policy…just like I’ll do in Washington.”

The primary will be held March 3, just 15 days away. Tuberville and Byrne are likely competing among each other and former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions for two runoff spots for the GOP nomination to face U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) in November.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

It’s time for Alabama legislators to end the wasteful practices of subsidizing newspapers to print public notices

Every year, Alabama’s various governments are required by law to take tax dollars collected from their citizens and hand them over to print newspapers to comply with public notice laws.

These laws force these entities to notify the public of matters facing them through the pages of these newspapers. There are no other options.

Local city governments? Yep.

Local boards of education? Yep.

State agencies? Yep.

With each of these requirements, a private entity is subsidized by tax dollars for a service that no one actually uses. To say this is a scam is an understatement.

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Current Alabama law requires government entities in Alabama to advertise and pay for legal notices, legislation, constitutional amendments, voter rolls and other public matters in the local print media outlets.

As I have pointed out before, this is not chump change.

  • The City of Huntsville spends up to $115,000 each year.
  • Madison County spends up to $153,000 each year.

The real cost across the state is clearly into the multiple millions of dollars range.

Last week, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and explained that Madison County alone was forced to pay $75,000 to Alabama Media Group, the parent company of AL.com, which runs a sports blog with a liberal bias.

For what? A 112-page list of voters.

Strong says he knows no one is reading this list to see if they are eligible to vote.

“You’re printing a 112-page document that will be used to light fires in people’s burn pits,” he explained. “People don’t even look at it, they throw it in the garbage can.”

The Secretary of State’s Office has a phone number and a website where people can see if they are eligible to vote, so this is all completely unnecessary.

Keep in mind, this is one county. All 67 counties in the state had to pay for this “service,” and they all know it is a waste of their resources.

Strong noted, “I promise you $75,000 practically every two years over 10 years, that’s $375,000, and I can tell you Madison County has a bunch of needs that money could go toward a lot more beneficial than a list.”

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Multiple lawmakers have attempted to cut in on these legal notices over the years, with little success.

State Representative Andrew Sorrell (R-Muscle Shoals) tried last year. He said in 2019, “I think it’s really hard to make a case in Alabama that we need more taxes while we are not spending the money we have in an efficient manner.”

Sorrell is trying again this year:

Relating to public notices; to provide for electronic publication of public notices on a public notice website operated by the Secretary of State; to provide for fees for publication; to allow counties and municipalities to opt out under certain conditions; and to provide for delivery of public notices to the Secretary of State for publication on the public notice website.

Secretary of State John Merrill is all in on supporting this bill.

My takeaway:

The same challenges that came up in 2019 will come up again in 2019. No one wants to fight the newspapers on this because they know the newspapers will fight back.

We all know the old saying: “Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

But it is time to pick this fight. The status quo is a scam that gives tax dollars to newspapers and citizens get little in return. It is time for other legislators to join him and get this done.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

17 hours ago

Greg Shaw releases first ad in Alabama Supreme Court reelection bid — ‘One of us’

Alabama Supreme Court Associate Justice Greg Shaw on Monday released the first television ad in his reelection bid to Place 1 on the court.

The spot, entitled, “Trump Tough,” lasts 30 seconds and opens with footage of Shaw driving a truck around a farm.

“Activist judges legislate from the bench, but not conservative Justice Greg Shaw,” a narrator says.

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“Justice Shaw is one of Alabama’s most conservative judges — fighting activism and interpreting the law,” the narrator continues. “A Christian fighting for our values, Justice Shaw has been married for 39 years, is of the highest character and never wavers from biblical principles. Justice Shaw is respected, Trump tough and, like the president, Greg Shaw is one of us.”

Watch:

Shaw is facing a tough Republican primary challenge from State Sen. Cam Ward (R-Alabaster), the chairman of the Alabama Senate Judiciary Committee.

As of last Monday, February 10, Shaw had approximately $252,000 cash-on-hand while Ward had $113,000. Ward to that point had spent about $106,000 in the cycle while Shaw had spent $38,000. Updated financial disclosures are due on Tuesday, February 18, two weeks before the March 3 primary.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn