What happened was perfectly legal, but an Alabama sheriff is still answering questions after it was reported he brought home a personal profit of $750,000, funds that had been budgeted for feeding inmates.
According to a Depression-era “keep and retain” law, any unspent funds from jail food-provision accounts may be requisitioned by the acting sheriff for personal use. It’s apparently common practice across the state of Alabama for sheriffs to take some funds as a supplement to their incomes. It’s a fine line tradeoff, because they are also personally responsible for any shortfall in funding for inmate food.
Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin told the local media he is perfectly within his rights: “The law says it's a personal account and that's the way I've always done it.”
Which, by all accounts, is true, but no one had really looked into the scale prior to this report. Just exactly how much cash was Entrekin pocketing through this law? No one seems to know that figure. Watchdog groups tried to find out but came up short, and that has a lot of people in Alabama, and elsewhere, wondering just exactly where all the cash is going — and how much of it there is.
As it turned out, Entrekin wasn’t hiding anything. He was declaring the amounts on ethics disclosures, more or less. Over three years, he reported at least $250,000 each year. The law does not require him to disclose anything over that amount, so it could have been considerably more.
Further investigation by local news publications learned that Entrekin and his wife own multiple properties, including a home purchased just last year — for around $750,000. That caught the attention of their readers, because without the extra funds, the sheriff only earns about $93,000 per year. Not nearly enough to afford one home of that value, let alone several properties totaling more than $1.7 million in value.
When asked about the reports, Entrekin blamed the “liberal media” for attacking him for “following the letter of the law.”
Entrekin added that the law is familiar to Alabama voters, because it’s “used every election cycle to attack the sheriff’s office… Alabama Law is clear regarding my personal financial responsibilities of feeding inmates. Until the legislature acts otherwise, the Sheriff must follow the current law.”
In this case, in the minds of many voters “must follow” and “gets to follow” are much the same thing. So far, Entrekin has been able to talk around the reports, but as the story gains traction those evasions may not work nearly as well.
Ronn Torossian is one of America’s foremost Public Relations executives as founder/CEO of 5WPR, a leading independent public relations Agency. The firm was honored as PR Firm of the Year by The American Business Awards, and has been named to the Inc. 500 List. Torossian is author of the best-selling "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations." For more of Ronn Torossian's reports, Go Here Now.
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