Tens of thousands of dollars missing, destruction of public property, and retaliatory behavior. Those are just some of the allegations made by current Alabama sheriffs regarding the offices they inherited from their predecessors.
WHNT News 19 investigative reporter Chelsea Brentzel spoke with Connor Sheets, an investigative reporter with our news partners at AL.com. He told us they are working with ProPublica, an investigative newsroom based out of New York, on issues related to sheriffs in Alabama.
“Multiple sheriffs lost elections, and the new sheriffs that came in had a number of allegations and provided various records that the new sheriffs consider to be misconduct or worse,” said Sheets.
Their first investigation details current Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims’ experience when he took over former Sheriff Scott Walls’ office.
Sheriff Sims alleges on his first day he found five-government issued cell phones with several holes drilled through them saying he later learned the phones belonged to walls and those in his administration. Sims also told AL.com an employee under the previous administration was apparently instructed to dump a 40-pound bag of rice down a jail drain. Officials said the rice created a clog and crews had to be hired to fix the drain.
Records obtained by AL.com indicate Walls wired tens of thousands of dollars to the sheriff’s office general fund and Sims alleges more than $30,000 was missing from another account. The article also highlights a series of purchases Sims calls unnecessary, including 20,000 rolls of toilet paper and hundreds of boxes of garbage bags.
Sheets anticipates publishing several articles regarding the power sheriff’s have in Alabama this year. AL.com’s investigation found that nine of the 10 sheriffs who beat incumbent sheriffs dealt with “last minute actions” by the former sheriff that had negative impacts on their offices.