MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. - It's been an ongoing tradition for Alabama's sheriffs to leave a mess for the next sheriff to fill their position. Six months after becoming Marshall County's sheriff, Phil Sims says he's still dealing with issues created by the previous administration.
Last Wednesday our news partner AL.com reported that nine out of ten new sheriffs who won elections against sheriffs who had been around for years said their predecessors' last minute actions negatively impacted the office.
Sheriff Sims says Scott Walls refused to help with his transition into the new position, but that wasn't the biggest problem.
"We didn't have any communications about discretionary accounts, any communication about policy procedures or anything like that," Sims said. "Invoices, I had invoices that should've been paid. We had no communication so we kind of came in blind."
Even though Sims says he came into the position blindly, he quickly noticed the 20,000 rolls of toilet paper, hundreds of boxes of garbage bags and ten 55-gallon drums of dish washing soap.
"The toilet paper and the garbage bags that was ordered was over $15,000," said Sims.
The sheriff's office does order in bulk, explained Sims. But he said he would never spend that amount of money on only two items.
$15,000 is their budget for the entire year for all maintenance items.
Sims says that wasn't the only problem he came across when he got into office.
He says he found destroyed company phones and computers with missing hard drives.
"Reams of records were nowhere to be found," reports AL.com.
Sims has asked for the Department of Public Examiners to do an audit for the previous administration and his time in the office. He says they've agreed to do the audit but the date is unknown.
To keep the jail and sheriff's office running, Sims has had to work with the County Commission to make a new budget plan.
Sims says without the County Commission they wouldn't have been able to overcome these issues.
"We're moving ahead, we're climbing out of the hole and we're going to get there. We're not there yet, but we're going to get there," said Sims.
Sims says now that he's starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the part that bothers him the most is that he knows Walls took an oath to Marshall County.
"That oath doesn't mean you can go out and break the law or, or you know, just waste taxpayers' monies or anything like that," said Sims.
So now, he says Marshall County has created a bill to hold each Sheriff accountable moving forward. That way no sheriff in the area will be able to leave anyone else in this predicament.
"We've got a local bill passed that applies to Marshall County only that the ... outgoing sheriff, which will be me in this case one of these days, can only spend a certain amount of his budget," said Sims.
Sims says he's spending his time cleaning up the mess he was left so next year will be more productive.