By Toni Stauffer
At the Russell County Commission meeting on Oct. 10, Commissioner Chance Corbett (Dist. 6) took exception to two late additions to the agenda by Commissioner Ronnie Reed (Dist. 4) and requested their removal. Commissioner Gentry Lee (Dist. 1) clarified that any topic could be brought up for discussion by Commissioners and did not have to be added to the agenda unless a vote was required. Everyone voted to allow the discussions to stand, except for Commissioner Carl Currington (Dist. 2), who was absent, and Corbett who voted no.
Reed’s first topic for discussion concerned contracting out jail operations. Reed said the Commissioners were unable to give the employees pay raises, and that they were accustomed to having a lot of problems with the jail. He said the city only pays $400,000 for jail operations, and that it costs approximately $4.7 million to operate the jail. He said that they were not getting their fair share from the city, and that they need more revenue.
Reed brought the ire of Sheriff Taylor, who said, “The operations of the jail by law and statute belongs to the Sheriff. Period. Code section 14.6-1: the Sheriff has the legal custody and charge of the jail in his or her county, and the prisoners committed there, too.”
Sheriff Taylor said as far as he was concerned, there would be no discussion about contracting out the jail, unless he brought it to the Commission and asked it to do so.
“You don’t have the authority to contract out the jail, by law” said Taylor. He added that there are 16 grand juries who have gone through the facility to inspect it in the last eight years he’s been in office.
“They report to the district attorney every time they meet and go through the jail. I have provided you with a copy of the letter that says from the District Attorney and according to the code section of Alabama that two grand juries a year make a physical inspection of the Prentiss L. Griffith Detention Center. The grand juries are commanded to discern the physical conditions of the jail, its operations, and to be mindful of the safety of the inmates. These inspections have been happening since the dedication of the center. Every grand jury issues a report detailing the term of duty, and noting any area of concern. No grand jury has reported any concerns with the operation or conditions of the Prentiss L. Griffith Detention Center.”
Sheriff Taylor expressed frustration that he was not consulted about putting the jail on the agenda.
“If somebody has an issue with the way the jail is being run, my suggestion is you come see me about it,” said Taylor. “Otherwise, I don’t think you have the authority to even discuss contracting out the jail, unless it comes from me.” Sheriff Taylor said he’d love to have all the Commissioners come inspect the jail. “When you get out may be a question,” he joked.
Reed’s last topic centered around an employee at the Russell County Senior Center. Reed complained that volunteers were being paid and that the center was operating a limousine service. County Administrator LeAnn Horne explained that the employee in question wasn’t on a bus route and had been receiving rides from staff and volunteers. However, with the addition of the new Lee-Russell buses, the matter has been resolved. The employee is a paid contractor who only makes about $60 a month.
Horne chastised Reed for intimidating her staff while she was out of town in Montgomery, stating that he stood over her employee and demanded that she bring up the agenda, and that the employee was afraid of being in the wrong because Reed’s request went against policy. She also expressed disappointment that he didn’t contact her by phone about the matter.
The Sept. 10 and Sept. 12 budget meeting minutes were tabled, a motion brought by Commissioner Cattie Epps (Dist. 5), to give Commissioners more time to read them. The Sept. 26 meeting minutes were unanimously approved. The next work session will be on Monday, Oct. 22, at 5 p.m. at the Russell County Courthouse.