On Friday, Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson filed a civil lawsuit asking for a court injunction to prevent Sheriff Ana Franklin from spending money that she is said to have taken from funds intended to go towards feeding inmates in the county jail.
The lawsuit asks that Franklin repay any money she took from the jail food funds.
"This is taxpayer money that was designated to pay for feeding inmates in the Morgan County Jail," Anderson said. "Our goal in filing this lawsuit today is to preserve what money that is left in the fund and make sure it is used for its intended purpose."
According to the district attorney, Sheriff Franklin set up a separate account from the jail food fund that was already in place and deposited $160,000 in jail food money to this personal account. $150,000 of those funds were invested in an automobile dealership, Priceville Partners LLC, that ended up going bankrupt, Anderson said.
Anderson said that Franklin then deposited funds in the original account to make the balance total $160,000 and told the federal court that she had just re-deposited the money. The judge found Franklin in contempt of federal court and fined her $1,000.
The lawsuit claims that the $160,000 was not returned to the original jail food fund and that Franklin had created the new account for purposes other than feeding inmates.
“Sheriff Franklin told the federal court the money she took from the jail food account has been returned,” Anderson said. “Actually, the sheriff put the money into a personal savings account that only she controls, and there is no indication that the money taken from that account was used to buy or prepare food for the inmates. In our view, that’s a misappropriation of taxpayer dollars.”
A temporary restraining order was approved by Circuit Judge Glenn Thompson Friday morning to freeze Franklin's account. Morgan County Sheriff-Elect, Ron Puckett, was elected in November and will take office January 15. Franklin did not run for re-election.
“I want to assure Morgan County residents that our office will be a good steward of their money,” Puckett said. “That means jail funds that are designated for the operation of the jail and the feeding of inmates will be used to operate the jail and feed inmates. That includes any money the District Attorney is able to preserve or recoup.”
Anderson said he is concerned that Franklin will spend whatever is left from the jail food fund before she leaves office. The lawsuit asks for an accounting of all jail food accounts, that any remaining food funds maintained by the sheriff be frozen and that Franklin reimburse the county and state for any improperly spent money.
“Sheriff Franklin is leaving office, and taxpayers deserve assurance that she won’t spend or take with her money that rightfully should go to defraying the costs of feeding inmates,” Anderson said. “Taxpayers also are owed back every penny of the money that was taken from the jail fund and spent on anything other than for which it was intended.”