Lawmaker drafting bill to stop pay for suspended officials

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LIMESTONE COUNTY, Ala. - Should elected officials still be paid when they are suspended?

That question came up after a letter surfaced from suspended Limestone County Judge Douglas Patterson admitting to the criminal charges against him.

A lawmaker is now drafting a law to stop him from taking home a paycheck.

Judge Douglas Patterson served as a judge in Limestone County from 2016 to 2019. He was suspended in December after being arrested on multiple counts of theft, using his position for personal gain and financial exploitation of the elderly.

Last week WHNT reported that a new complaint was filed against him, citing a letter he sent to the circuit court judge presiding over the case, admitting to stealing from the elderly and using county funds for himself.

He hasn't worked since December, but he is still getting a paycheck - a whopping 10 grand a month.

But Representative Andy Whitt from Harvest saying keeping him on the payroll is "unfair". He says Patterson should have submitted a resignation letter along with his admission.

Whitt sent a statement to WHNT News 19 saying quote, "Taking state money while under indictment and removed from office isn`t right. If indictment becomes guilt, then we have saved taxpayers money."

The situation prompted the lawmaker to begin drafting a bill he hopes would protect taxpayer money.

"The goal is to ensure that a removed elected official doesn`t remain on the state payroll. Once removed from office, then pay would be suspended immediately until after the trial's outcome," said Rep. Andy Whitt (R-Harvest).

Patterson is not the only official in the county under indictment. Sheriff Mike Blakely was arrested on 13 counts of ethics violations and theft in August. But he is still serving as sheriff.

Whitt says as of now, the bill would only apply to situations like Patterson's.

"The issue is with the public officials being removed and continuing to draw a state check... The list of qualifying officials is still being worked on. Sheriff Blakey has stated his innocence and deserves, like anyone, a fair trial. the current situation shows a judge that had admitted his guilt and remains only for selfish reasons," Whitt said.

Representative Whitt says the bill is still being written, but he hopes to have it filed as soon as possible. The bill does not have a co-sponsor yet - but Whitt says he has been approached by several state senators.

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