Two stories yesterday just left me … speechless.
Alabama has been a controversial state in recent years, in no small part due to Roy Moore, a federal judge twice tossed off the bench for failing to uphold the law, then a credibly accused pedophile running for a seat in the U.S. Senate to replace proven-racist Jeff Sessions, who is now the U.S. Attorney General. Whew … makes your head spin, doesn’t it? Historically, Alabama has been a republican stronghold, though that may be changing, given that they didn’t fall for Roy Moore’s story in December and voted in Doug Jones, a democrat, rejecting Moore for either his lawbreaking ways, his racism, or his pedophilia … who knows which?
Well, Alabama is back in the news, and I want you to sit down, because what I’m about to tell you is going to surprise you … or maybe not, in the current environment of untruth and dishonesty. Until this week, sheriffs could keep for themselves any excess public money after they had paid for prisoners’ meals. Yes, you heard right. Taxpayer dollars fund the upkeep of prisoners, including meals. So, say the budget calls for $15,600 for prisoner meals for a given week in Etowah County, Alabama. And say that in the month of May, there were fewer than usual prisoners, and in addition, Sheriff Bubba arranged for some really cheap mac ‘n cheese to be served up twice a day in lieu of a protein, such as … um … meat. So, the meals only ended up costing around $8,100 for the month. Well, Sheriff Bubba can now put his darling daughter Darlene through her first two years of college, for he gets to pocket the $7,500 that was budgeted but not spent on prisoner’s meals! And that’s how it was in ol’ Alabama, until …
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey stepped in and said, NO MORE!!!“Public funds should be used for public purposes. It’s that simple.”
Good grief, people!!! This really isn’t rocket science! Sheriffs get paid a salary … skimping on prisoner’s meals shouldn’t result in extra money in the sheriff’s pocket! Can you even imagine what abuses that must have led to over the years?
A practice begun in the Depression was upheld in 2008 in a ruling by then-Attorney General Troy King, who said a “sheriff may retain any surplus from the food service allowance as personal income,” noting that “most of the sheriffs in the state have retained the food service allowances for personal income for years.”
How many other states, I wonder, engage in similar practices?
Last year NPR reported on a sheriff in Alabama’s Etowah County: “Voters in Alabama lost their appetite for a sheriff who personally profited off hundreds of thousands of dollars meant to buy food for inmates at the Etowah County Jail. Sheriff Todd Entrekin lost his re-election campaign during the Republican primary on Tuesday.”
“At a news conference in March, Entrekin confirmed that he had personally profited by hundreds of thousands of dollars by reducing costs in jail kitchens. He emphasized that it was legal, denied that inmates experienced malnutrition — while agreeing that many ‘are not happy with the food they are served’ — and urged the state to pass a law prohibiting sheriffs from taking the money as personal profit.
Reporters also noted that Entrekin purchased a beach house for $740,000. In his news conference, Entrekin denied there was a link between his hundreds of thousands of dollars in jail-kitchen income and his property purchase, noting that his wife’s income was also factored into the mortgage.”
For decades lawmakers have been trying to change this ‘policy’, but without success. Governor Ivey stepped up to the plate and succeeded where others had failed, and is hoping to get the matter put to bed once and for all by the Alabama Legislature later this year
“I have changed the way these funds are handled because it is the right thing to do. The law is clear, the attorney general’s opinion is clear, and now I have been clear. I urge the Legislature to follow my lead and codify this policy into law during the next regular session.”
This one just left me speechless. How could anybody ever think this was okay?
Then there was the letter PayPal sent to a customer … a deceased customer:
“Dear Mrs Lindsay Durdle,
This is a default notice…You are in breach of condition 15.4(c) of your agreement with PayPal Credit as we have received notice that you are deceased. In accordance with condition 15.4(c), we are entitled to close your account, terminate your agreement and demand repayment of the full amount outstanding.”
Has your jaw dropped yet? Did they expect her to respond, I wonder? Ms. Durdle died last May of cancer at age 37. Her husband had sent a letter to PayPal informing them of her death. He provided PayPal with copies of her death certificate, her will and his ID, as requested. Her will? I’ve never heard of such! And then to get this response from PayPal? Unfathomable!
PayPal has since realized their error and issued an apology to Mr. Durdle, who said …
“If I’m going to make any fuss about this at all, it’s to make sure that PayPal – or any other organisation that might do this kind of insensitive thing – recognises the damage they can cause the recently bereaved.”
A reasonable response, and much nicer than mine would have been.