Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin’s troubles continue to grow.
A few days after pleading guilty in federal court to failing to file a tax return in 2015, Franklin is now being sued by the Morgan County District Attorney to prevent her from misusing jail food money.
The lawsuit, filed by DA Scott Anderson last week, asks a circuit court to place an injunction on Franklin that would protect as much as $160,000 in funds that Anderson says Franklin improperly removed from the jail food fund. His lawsuit also asks the court to order a financial review of the jail food account and determine how much money should be recouped.
Circuit Court Judge Glenn Thompson granted the restraining order, which effectively freezes the account and prevents Franklin from using any of the remaining funds.
“This is taxpayer money that was designated to pay for feeding the inmates in the Morgan
County jail,” Anderson said. “Our goal in filing this lawsuit is to preserve what money that is left in the fund and make sure it is used for its intended purpose.”
Franklin’s use of money designated to feed inmates has been a controversial issue for the out-going sheriff (she didn’t seek re-election). A large portion of the money was invested by Franklin in a used car dealership operated by a convicted felon. That business eventually became the focus of a law enforcement investigation, and earlier this year one of its partners was convicted of improperly using law enforcement resources in its operation.
Franklin’s investment landed her in federal court, where she was found to be in contempt of an earlier court order that prevented the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office from using food money on anything but expenses related to feeding inmates. Franklin was fined $1,000 and required to repay the $150,000 investment.
Anderson is concerned that Franklin might now attempt to use those funds to pay for the legal defense fees related to her growing legal troubles. Franklin is being sued by multiple parties for various alleged transgressions while serving as sheriff.
Sheriff-elect Ron Puckett, the police chief in Hartselle, said in a statement that he agreed with Anderson’s decision to seek a restraining order and that jail food funds would not be misused when he takes over in January.
“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.”