Thursday, March 15, 2018

Alabama sheriff who pocketed inmate food funds and bought beach house was appointed by (surprise!) Bob Riley and designated a "rising Republican star"

Todd Entrekin
An Alabama sheriff who pocketed $750,000 in inmate food funds and bought a $740,000 beach house was appointed to his position in 2007 by former Gov. Bob Riley. That should come as no surprise, given the Riley family's penchant for self-enrichment.

Todd Entrekin, Etowah County sheriff, has become a national punchline as the mainstream press has picked up on his outrageously greedy scheme. This is the same Entrekin whom the Alabama Republic Party, in 2013, named a "rising Republican star." From the ALGOP press release:

Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin is this week’s Rising Republican Star. Sheriff Entrekin has brought a wealth of experience and a vision to the Sheriff’s office of Etowah County. He became Sheriff of Etowah in 2007, when Governor Bob Riley appointed him after the passing of Sheriff James Hayes, but Todd’s career in law enforcement began long before that. . . .

Since his appointment in 2007, Sheriff Entrekin set several benchmarks for the department to reach and all of those benchmarks have already been accomplished.

It sounds like Entrekin's No. 1 benchmark was to line his own pockets -- and he certainly has accomplished that. In perhaps the finest piece of journalism to come from in the 2000s, Connor Sheets reports:

In September, Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin and his wife Karen purchased an orange four-bedroom house with an in-ground pool and canal access in an upscale section of Orange Beach for $740,000.

To finance the purchase, Entrekin got a $592,000 mortgage from Peoples Bank of Alabama, according to public real estate records. The home is one of several properties with a total assessed value of more than $1.7 million that the couple own together or separately in Etowah and Baldwin counties.

Some Etowah County residents question how a county sheriff making a five-figure annual salary can afford to own multiple houses, including one worth nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.

But ethics disclosure forms Entrekin filed with the state reveal that over the past three years he has received more than $750,000 worth of additional "compensation" from a source he identified as "Food Provisions."

Entrekin did not deny that he received the money when asked about it via email last week. Ethics forms he filed in previous years do not list any income from such a source.

To prove he does not lack for audacity, Entrekin actually tried to defend his actions -- seemingly drawing even more attention from the national press. Consider this, from Fox News:

Entrekin like other Alabama sheriffs believe a pre-World War II state law allows them to keep any “excess inmate-feeding funds” for themselves. However, in counties such as Jefferson and Montgomery, any excess money is supposed to be given to the county government.

In forms filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission, Entrekin reported he made “more than $250,000 each of the past three years via the inmate-feeding funds.”

Radley Balko, at The Washington Post, wrote about the scheme with a sense of disbelief, given that Entrekin has an annual salary of $92,000:

[Entrekin's] response when contacted for the story is priceless:

“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.”

So he had no choice, you see. He didn’t want to do it, but his hands were tied! He was bound by law to use funds designated for inmate meals to purchase beach homes for he and his wife. Just part of the sacrifice one makes for a career in public service.

The New York Daily News, referring to Entrekin as a "leech," focused on the political opposition that Entrekin's sticky fingers are attracting:

"I believe the funds belong to the taxpayers and any excess funds should go toward things that benefit the taxpayer," said Rainbow City Police Chief Jonathon Horton.

A former member of the Etowah County Sheriff's Office, Horton is running against Entrekin in this year's race for sheriff.

Said Horton, "There's been a tremendous amount of money left over that shouldn't be used as a bonus check."

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum reports that "Alabama sheriffs are living large":

Let’s tear our gaze away from the swamp in Washington DC and check in on the swamp of Etowah County in Alabama. Todd Entrekin, the sheriff there, just bought a vacation home for $740,000, bringing his total real estate empire to $1.7 million. Where did the money come from?

Ethics disclosure forms Entrekin filed with the state reveal that over the past three years he has received more than $750,000 worth of additional “compensation” from a source he identified as “Food Provisions.”

Fascinating. Can you tell us more . . . ?

Entrekin told last month that he has a personal account that he refers to as his “Food Provision” fund. And Etowah County resident Matthew Qualls said that in 2015 Entrekin paid him to mow his lawn via checks with the words “Sheriff Todd Entrekin Food Provision Account” printed in the upper-left corner. viewed a photograph of one such check.

Drum seemed just a tad incredulous at all of this:

Apparently the state of Alabama makes the sheriff personally responsible for everything related to food in the jails he operates. They give him a lump sum, and he gets to keep anything left over. You know, sort of a good ol’ boy slush fund that’s managed to survive all the way into the 21st century.

But as much as I’d like to be outraged, this kind of penny-ante corruption is actually sort of soothing compared to what’s happening in DC. It just goes to show that when rural folks complain that “the America I know” is slipping away, they’re not seeing the whole picture. In Alabama, at least, it’s still going strong.


Anonymous said...

I think it's important to note the Sheriff is personally responsible if he goes over the food budget. Granted it probably doesn't happen often. In the two counties mentioned that don't allow the sheriff to keep the money the County Commission is responsible for any overages.

Anonymous said...

Just what Alabama needs, another crook.

Anonymous said...

I thought the "Luv Guv" had made us a joke. This guy might be even worse.

Anonymous said...

Chris Curry got forced out of his job in Shelby County for pulling this same kind of crap.

Anonymous said...

No matter what the law is, this guy's an idiot for buying beach houses with the money.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the Alabama Legislature will decide to awake from its slumber to do something about this ridiculous law.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the statute in question, but a lot of the news stories say "sheriffs have interpreted it to say this." That doesn't necessarily mean that's what it says. I can imagine an Alabama sheriff being just a little self-serving and interpreting the law to suit his desires.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many other Alabama sheriffs have houses on the beach, courtesy of inmate food funds.

Anonymous said...

Now that Entrekin has been proven to be a crook, he will become the "Ultimate Republican Rising Star."

Anonymous said...

We're becoming a police state, more and more, and that makes it easier for scum like Entrekin to get away with stuff like this.

Anonymous said...

Here is an important point: This sheriff runs a jail, which is essentially a short-term holding facility to detain arrestees. Quite a few of the individuals in jails have not been found guilty of anything in their lives. The ones currently in jail almost certainly have not been found guilty of what they are charged with. These people are innocent until proven guilty, and they should be fed properly. This sheriff appears to be withholding food from innocent people so he can have snazzy homes on the Gulf. Truly perverse.

Anonymous said...

@8:59 Chris Curry was Sheriff for 3 terms and retired, he wasn't forced out. In fact he backed John Samaniego, who easily beat the other candidates. Doesn't really sound like the food budget played into that election.

Anonymous said...

@4:06 Has anyone said they aren't being fed properly? Have you had personal experience in Etowah County?

@Ls How is the food in Shelby County's Jail?

legalschnauzer said...

@5:05 --

The food in the Shelby County Jail is decent. I'm not a picky eater, and I usually cleaned my plate, except for the pinto beans, which were awful. The portions, however, are extremely small, and I lost 25 pounds in five months. Not sure anyone would survive without "commissary" food you can buy, but that is mostly snack food, high in sugar.

I was in Jeffco Jail for one weak, and the food there is what you see on a pig feed lot. Tastes and looks exactly like slop.

In Shelby County, inmates cook the food, and we reportedly had one guy with Hepatitis C, who was on kitchen duty. That doesn't help your appetite. If jails don't have to hire kitchen help, no wonder they have money left over to buy beach houses.

Anonymous said...

Etowah County Jail houses a large number of ICE detainees under an agreement with the feds that was worked out by the previous sheriff. A $15 million addition was built on to the jail for ICE. Some of the detainees have been there for years without having a hearing. Food reimbursement for federal prisoners is $4 per day, vs. $1.45 for county prisoners

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the Beach Bum Sheriff was paying close attention to the money?

All money isn't the same.

If that's all 'left over' Aladamnbamma taxpayer money the Beach Bum Sheriff has been spending, well then that's one thing.

If, however, some of that 'left over' taxpayer money the Beach Bum Sheriff has been spending came from Uncle Sugar's federal cookie jar...well that little beachhouse might just be like a federal prosecution in the making!

The sheriff might need to be very VERY careful to keep any federal moneys fully accounted for and totally undiverted, because rules apply anytime federal dollars are spent.

Now if it turns out (and there is absolutely NO reason to believe that this has happened, only a whiff of possible suspicious taint is in the air) that some peckerwood sheriff from Alabama has been to spending ANY 'left over' federal dollars on a beach house then that's a whole 'nother thing indeed! That's when the beach bum sheriff might be lookin to get treed just as soon as them old boys up north get wind of the scheme! If he was smart.

Anonymous said...

LS- not advocating for jail food in Shelby County in any way, but more or less Americans as a whole eat portions that are WAY TOO BIG in general. I'm guilty of this myself. The portions that were given were probably more along the lines of what we should have in terms of portions and calories. i say this as a formerly obese person