Todd Entrekin, the sheriff of Alabama’s northeastern Etowah County, reported on state ethics forms that he took “more than $250,000” in each of the past three years from federal, state, and municipal funds designated for feeding inmates.
Entrekin told AL.com that the law allowed him to take the extra $750,000.
“In regards to feeding of inmates, we utilize a registered dietitian to ensure adequate meals are provided daily,” he said. “As you should be aware, Alabama law is clear as to my personal financial responsibilities in the feeding of inmates. Regardless of one’s opinion of this statute, until the legislature acts otherwise, the sheriff must follow the current law.”
The sheriff and his wife used the extra money to buy a second beach house in Orange Beach, Alabama. They opted for a four-bedroom structure with an in-ground pool.
All together, they own more than $1.7 million worth of real estate. The couple clearly wasn’t able to afford that on Etrekin’s $93,178.80 yearly salary, and residents started to notice that the sheriff seemed to have an awful lot of excess money on his hands.
Entrekin was so unashamed of his so-called “Food Provision” fund that he listed it on checks. A 20-year-old resident who worked for a landscaping company told AL.com that he was paid by Entrekin with checks that said “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account.”
When questioned about the checks, Entrekin told the outlet, “I do have an account that says Food Provision on it. The sheriffs are being sued statewide about how this money is being used ... I’m not commenting on that because there’s a lawsuit pending.”
Entrekin is likely referring to a suit filed by two advocacy groups in January against 49 sheriffs who refused to respond to public records requests related to their use of inmate food funds.
“The public has a right to know whether sheriffs are meeting the basic human needs of incarcerated people in their care, or are instead filling their personal coffers,” said the director of Alabama Appleseed, one of the organizations that filed the suit.
Taxpayer money should not be used to line the pockets of local sheriffs. The fact that sheriffs are taking money intended for prison is particularly concerning considering the poor conditions in Alabama’s facilities, which have witnessed dangerous overcrowding and been the focus of an investigation by the Department of Justice.
Police are supposed to serve the public interest, and there is simply no justification for officers using public money for personal wealth. Nine years ago, an Alabama sheriff was jailed for accruing personal wealth by cutting food expenditures for prisoners. His defense team invoked the same law. Years later, sheriffs are still taking money from prisoner funds, indicating that systemic issues exist which allow sheriffs to abuse their authority.
These cases, and the horror stories reported about others, such as former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, highlight the rampant abuse of power that exists within the criminal justice system, overall, and particularly among sheriffs.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: Reuters