LIMESTONE, COUNTY, Ala. - Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely is facing more than a dozen charges of abusing his power and stealing money, but he still has full access to the department, including its multi-million dollar operating fund.
Blakely has served as sheriff for 36 years and is arguably the most powerful person in Limestone County. Prosecutors say Blakely stole money from his office, inmates, and campaign.
His defense attorneys said on the day of his arrest they will challenge the constitutionality of the Alabama Ethics Act, which is the act the 10-term sheriff is charged under.
Meanwhile, because Blakely is a constitutional officer in Alabama, he's still allowed to serve as sheriff. State law grants him access to Limestone County's largest budget of more than $4.5 million.
"Unless the legislature has chosen to give the county that kind of authority to constrain an elected official, the commission has no authority to do so," explained Executive Director of Alabama County Commissions Sonny Brasfield. "And certainly that hasn't happened in Alabama that I'm aware of."
Brasfield told WHNT News 19 county commissions have budgeting authority, but they have no power over a county sheriff accused of misusing money. That type of disciplinary power is up to state lawmakers. The legislature would need to pass a law or amendment to give county commissions that type of authority.
"That's a legitimate conversation to have. Certainly in 2019, when most of the structures were set up more than a hundred years ago," said Brasfield. "But until you have that kind of discussion, we operate the way we operate."
The taxpayers of Limestone County are left to rely on the scales of justice for now.
If Sheriff Blakely is convicted, he would be forced out of his job. The governor would appoint someone else to be sheriff if there was a vacancy.