Court rules disputed jail food money belongs to Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims to feed inmates

Phil Sims

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – A circuit court judge ruled the sheriff of Marshall County, Phil Sims, is entitled to $23,447.76 of disputed jail food funds.

In February, Citizens Bank asked the court to decide who gets the money, described as left over money from the jail food fund. Outgoing sheriff, Scott Walls, and Sims each laid claim to it. Alabama, until recently, had a law stating sheriffs were able to pocket extra jail food money. Now, they are required to spend it on jail food and food service only.

Walls had three demand deposit accounts set up for the money to go in, dated back to September 2018 according to court records. He said those were his accounts, and he was entitled to the money.

But Sims believed that, as the current sheriff in charge of the jail, the money should go to him to use for that purpose.

WHNT News 19 reported that Citizens Bank turned the sum over to the court in February and asked that the judge decide what to do with it.

Now, the Marshall County judge has issued a summary judgement to decide the case without going to trial. The judge ruled in Sims favor, in his official capacity as sheriff, in mid-June. The funds must be used to feed inmates including food preparation and serving costs.

The two law enforcement officers have clashed since the election and transition to a new sheriff. WHNT News 19 previously reported large purchases allegedly made under Walls’ leadership including 20,000 rolls of toilet paper, hundreds of boxes of garbage bags and ten 55-gallon drums of dishwashing soap. Sims said he discovered them upon taking office.

This legal matter is not to be confused with a separate lawsuit Walls filed against the state comptroller, which states that Gov. Kay Ivey had no authority to change a longstanding practice allowing sheriffs to keep leftover food money. Only the Legislature can do that, he said.

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