Etowah sheriff defends $750,000 he collected from excess inmate food money
Friday morning Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin said he wanted to set the record straight about media reports that he personally gained from how he ran the county's inmate food program. "At the end of the day if you make a profit, it's yours," explained Entrekin. But many are questioning how are tax dollars being transferred to personal bank accounts. Entrekin and others contend any leftover money goes to the sheriff under Alabama law. Critics say its immoral and unethical, even if it has gone on for years.
Sheriff Entrekin confirmed he has received $250,000 in excess funds from the program over each of the past three years. But he called published reports that he bought a beach house with that $750,000 a lie. He said the house was bought with a loan from a bank and the down payment came from the sale of another piece of property. He called recent stories a "smear campaign."
Entrekin says his inmates get nutritious and balanced meals that are set up by a nutritionist. He showed members of the media the jail's menu and trays with the morning breakfast. The county jail houses roughly 900 inmates, a portion of them are federal prisoners. Some are skeptical how inmates can be fed for so little money. If they can, is it time to cut those budgets so there is less leftover?
The sheriff also revealed at one time the program was in debt and he had to take out a personal loan to cover food and expenses. He says he lost money for years and nobody came to his defense. Since then he says they've learned how to run the program efficiently.
Entrekin says state law does not allow him to simply give back to the county the extra funds. He did however say he gave some to local charities. The sheriff explained when he first took office he tried to get the outdated state law revised. He said he still supports those changes and would also welcome the county commission taking over the food program which it can legally do at any time.
Representative Mack Butler tried to get a local bill passed quickly this session to send the excess money in Etowah County to a fund designated for law enforcement, but it failed to get past the local delegation. He says the public is demanding changes and there is too much incentive for the sheriffs to skimp on food.
Butler will pursue a statewide law next session in March of 2019. Bills in a few other local counties are still pending. It has not been made public what other sheriffs across the state are pocketing from their programs.
In Jefferson County along with a few others, the food programs are run by the county commission.