Sheriff Todd Entrekin in Alabama receives an annual salary of $93,178. In addition, over the past three years, he has claimed an extra $750,000 as “compensation” from “food provisions,” according to NY Daily News.
And by “compensation” from “food provisions,” Entrekin is referring to the money that was left over after feeding inmates at his county jail. In September, Entrekin purchased a four-bedroom beach house worth $740,000.
The sheriff claims, along with others, that this is wholly legal, citing a 1939 law that allows sheriffs to have reign over unspent money in the food fund. The law allocated $1.75 per prisoner per day. And in Alabama, sheriffs receive this allocation in their personal accounts, rather than in government accounts, said the New York Times.
According to the Southern Center for Human Rights, Entrekin is potentially just one of dozens of Alabama sheriffs that take money from food funds for personal use. When the Center requested public records to review how much the sheriffs took from food provisions, 49 sheriffs refused to share the information.
The Center and the Alabama Appleseed Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit to gain access to the records in January. An attorney at the Center cites past cases to make their point.
“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.”
In fact, Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett spent a night in jail for doing something similar to Entrekin in 2009. Bartlett took $212,000 over three years out of his food fund for inmates, according to the New York Times.
If you’re wondering how Bartlett managed to save so much money, look no further than his grocery shopping habits. He spent $1,000 on an 18-wheeler of corn dogs, detailed CBS News. The inmates ate corn dogs twice a day for three months.
Judge Clemson ordered Bartlett to come up with a food plan for inmates, and implemented a consent order that required “all funds provided by any source for the feeding of inmates…will be used exclusively for the feeding of inmates incarcerated in the Morgan County Detention Facility,” detailed WHNT News.
The story at Morgan County continued with Sheriff Ana Franklin, who took $150,000 from food funds. She took the money and invested it into a used car dealership in 2015 called Priceville Partners, reported the New York Times and Decatur Daily. Franklin then claimed that “because of bad legal advice, she had not realized she was violating the court order.”
Ultimately, Federal Judge Abdul Kallon found Franklin in contempt of court, and fined her $1,000. She also replaced the money she took back into the food fund. Also during the trial proceedings, Franklin requested that the judge lift the consent of order that Judge Clemson had put in place, preventing Morgan County sheriffs from using food funds as personal income.
The judge agreed to end the consent of order based on the following.
“The parties agree that the foregoing provision is no longer required because counsel for Plaintiffs concede that they cannot demonstrate that the provision ‘remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violation.'”
Lawyer Sarah Geraghty offers some insight into the sheriffs’ mindsets.
“In certain jurisdictions there is a feeling by sheriffs that this is my fiefdom — I am in charge, my way or the highway…Sometimes that kind of culture can lead to sort of a sheriffs-gone-wild kind of behavior.”
In the meantime, Entrekin enjoys his four-bedroom beach house with a pool, along with his other properties. His real estate portfolio is reportedly over $1.7 million.
There are no updates at this point on the lawsuit filed by the Southern Center for Human Rights. If the Center wins the lawsuit, then a slew of other sheriffs’ use of food funds as personal income could come to light.