A lawsuit was recently settled over allegations that a former Morgan County sheriff misused fail food money.
A lawsuit over jail food money was recently settled between Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin and Alabama state and local prosecutors. As part of the settlement agreement, $45,000 of unspent inmate meal money will go to the county. What happened, though?
According to a lawsuit that was filed against Franklin back in December 2018, Franklin “withdrew $160,000 of jail food money and loaned $150,000 to a now-bankrupt used car lot.” Though she claimed she repaid the money to the jail’s food fund, prosecutors argued that she “deposited the money in a personal food money account — not the official jail food account.” To make matters worse, when prosecutors subpoenaed financial records for the “personal account last year, they found $55,000,” according to the suit. Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson said that at the time “he didn’t know what happened to the other $105,000,” but later learned Franklin had spent the money on legal bills and inmate food.
The suit was filed against Franklin right before she left office to prevent her from pocketing the remaining $55,000 in unspent jail food money.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Franklin is allowed to use $10,000 of the $55,000 on legal bills, but the “remaining $45,000 will go to current Sheriff Ron Puckett for feeding inmates.” This isn’t the first time sheriffs have attempted to keep excess jail food money. In fact, in the past, many sheriffs in the state have argued they “can personally keep excess jail food money because of an antiquated state law.” However, legislation has since been passed to ban the practice.
When commenting on the old law, Anderson said it was “in effect when he filed the lawsuit against Franklin and was taken into consideration when prosecutors reached the settlement with her, who argued she was legally entitled to pocket unspent jail food money.” He added, “we weren’t guaranteed to win.”
Despite the old law, Anderson also noted the settlement is a win for Morgan County taxpayers. He said, “settling the case will prevent further legal expenses, return $45,000 to the sheriff’s office and prevent the county from being on the hook for legal fees Franklin accrued while in her official capacity.” He added:
“By resolving legal fees for the Morgan County sheriff’s office, ending that chapter in the life of Morgan County, and knowing we’re not going to have to spend a considerable amount of money going forward, it was absolutely a win. There was no guarantee that we were going to get a dime.”