Cullman Jail Food Controversy To Be Settled By A Vote Of The People

Cullman Jail Food Controversy To Be Settled By A Vote Of The People

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Cullman Jail Food Controversy To Be Settled By A Vote Of The People

This afternoon at the Alabama State House in Montgomery, Senator Paul Bussman put forth a motion for his fellow state Senators to vote and affirm passage of HB461.

HB461 was sponsored by Alabama District 12 Representative Corey Harbison. The bill has become known as the ‘Cullman County Jail Food Bill’.

The vote unanimously passed the Senate by a margin of 26-0 (with 6 Senators absent and 2 abstaining).

Senator Bussman had these thoughts after the vote:

“I was glad to see an agreement reached to resolve this old, out of date practice. I want to thank our delegation, Sheriff and county commissioners for their efforts to get this passed.”

For background on this bill, see “Sheriffs Jail Food Controversy Moves a Step Closer To Resolution“.

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HB461 now moves to Governor Kay Ivey’s desk where it is expected she will sign the new law making it an amendment to the Alabama Code of 1901.

With that signature, the voters of Cullman County will get the opportunity to VOTE on the matter in this fall’s general election. They will determine the ultimate fate of this legislation.

Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry was quick to weigh-in on today’s passage of the bill:

“I would first like to thank our local legislative delegation for passing the local food bill out of the Alabama Legislature that changes the food bill from a personal account of the sheriff to a discretionary account of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office to be used for training, to buy equipment, and other law enforcement purposes.”

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Representative Harbison had these thoughts on Senator Bussman moving the bill forward:

“I’m glad that I was able to sponsor this bill in the House. I believe if the voters opt to do this, it will be a huge victory. This tax money is currently not even audited. I appreciate Senator Bussman picking it up in the Senate.”

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The bill itself – if ultimately voted into law by the registered voters of Cullman County – would do several things:

1. HB246 would eliminate the ‘side business’ aspect of the Sheriff’s role in providing food for Detention Center inmates. Currently, Gentry and all Alabama Sheriff’s are allowed by statute to place profits from their handling of jail food programs directly into their own personal checkbooks. They are also responsible for losses incurred in this endeavor as well.

2. HB246 provides that all allowances or amounts received by the sheriff for feeding prisoners would be deposited in a special account and used for feeding prisoners in the county jail and any excess in the fund would be authorized to be used for law enforcement purposes by the Sheriff.

This aspect of the bill takes Gentry out of the ‘personal side business’ aspect of running the jail food services program.

3. A separate account in the county treasury will be created known as the “Sheriff’s Discretionary Fund”.

4. Any funds in the Sheriff’s Discretionary Fund shall be carried over from year to year.
5. In the event additional amounts are needed by the Sheriff for the feeding of prisoners, the amounts shall be paid by the sheriff from any other discretionary funds available for the operation of the office of the Sheriff.

6. An important nuance of this legislation, states the Sheriff shall not be subject to the competitive bid law for the purchase of food or supplies used for feeding prisoners in the county jail.

7. To compensate the Sheriff for income lost by removal of jail food profits from his personal account, the sheriff shall receive an annual salary equal to the annual salary of the Judge of Probate of Cullman County not to include any compensation received by the judge of probate for election purposes.

The Cullman County Judge of Probate was paid $86,013 in 2015 according to the Association of County Commission of Alabama.

The Cullman County Sheriff’s was paid $70,607 in 2015.

8. All of this will be put to the vote of the people – assuming this passes through the Alabama Senate and makes its way to a signature from Governor Kay Ivey.

9. If voted in by a vote of the people, these changes will take effect at the start of the Sheriff’s next term.

 

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Alabama State House

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Cullman Jail Food Controversy To Be Settled By A Vote Of The People

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Timothy Collins

Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com.

Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at cullmantoday@gmail.com.