By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
TUSCALOOSA—What should have been a uneventful campaign between two veteran politicians has taken a curious turn.
The race for probate judge in Tuscaloosa between the long-serving democrat Probate Judge Hardy McCollum and the six term Republican county Sheriff Ted Sexton may hinge on an audit that is languishing in the offices of the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts.
Rumors began to circulate earlier this year about an audit being conducted at the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
It has been alleged by those who have knowledge of the internal working of the office that Sheriff Ted Sexton has used government funds for personal use. Accusations of misappropriation of funds to pay club dues and other expenses including around $24 thousand dollars for jet and $2,400 for the fuel that Sexton spent on a private plane to bring him back from a ballgame.
An audit of Sextons’ office has been “finalized,” and is being held at the state examiner’s office in Montgomery. The Alabama Political Report made inquiries with the examiner’s office and have been told that the audit is finished but not “complete.”
Repeated calls to the state’s chief examiner Ron Jones have gone unanswered. Jones’ personal secretary Sandy Sherley has confirmed that her boss has received the messages but still Jones has not returned the numerous calls.
Even after two trips to Gordon Persons Building where the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts is located, Jones has refused to meet concerning the matter.
James Hall, who works under Jones did speak with the Alabama Political Reporter.
Hall said, “That report has not been finalized so we can’t comment on it.” When asked what does finalized mean Hall answered, “That means it goes through a process of quality controls and reviews.”
Sandy Sherley said “complete” means, “it has not gone through word processing for grammar and such and has not been printed yet.”
Having been informed of the possible damaging information in the report and the fact that it might have a bearing on the probate judge’s race, Sherley offered to put this reporter on hold while she tried to find out when the report might be completed.
After several minute the phone was answered by Hall’s answering machine.
When Hall was asked if his office was intentionally slow walking the report until after the elections he said, “We do not do that, as far as I know it has been finished by the examiner but still has to go through the review process.”
Since these calls the office of Ron Jones has been silent. Jones is known around the Statehouse for his curious habit of attending every day of the legislative session, where he sits just outside the House Chambers on a small bench, bouncing a briefcase on his knees. One has to wonder if Jones has so much free time during the session then why he doesn’t have time to answer a few question about a report that might show wrong doing by a county sheriff and candidate for probate judge?
After 16 calls and two visit it is time for the state to come forward with the report on Ted Sexton and the sheriff’s office.
Sexton was contacted for this report but has also failed to respond.