New DA to commision: ‘return donated money’

Arguing that the transaction was improper, District Attorney Pamela Casey appeared Tuesday before the Blount County Commission and, in one of her first official acts, asked the commission to return to the DA’s budget $30,000 donated by former DA Tommy Rountree to the Blount County sheriff’s department shortly before he left office. The transactions to transfer the money from the DA’s budget to the county commission and thence to the sheriff’s department were done on Jan. 6.

The actual budget amendment to transfer the money from the commission general fund to the sheriff’s department was on the commission’s agenda for a vote Tuesday, Jan. 18. After Casey read her letter objecting to the donation, the commission voted unanimously to transfer the money from the commission account to the sheriff’s department account. The money is to be used for repair and maintenance for sheriff’s department vehicles.

Casey stated in a letter to the commission dated yesterday that the donation was improper, arguing that state law allows the DA to transfer money only for expenditures for which an expense has been incurred, not for donations for which an expense has not been incurred. She said that if the money is not returned, she will turn the matter over to the state auditor and the state attorney general’s office for investigation.

The pertinent law in section 12-17-197 (c) of the Alabama Code reads: “The district attorney…is hereby authorized to requisition expenditures from the district attorney’s fund for the payment of any and all expenses to be incurred by him for law enforcement and in the discharge of the duties of his office, as he sees fit.”

Asked to comment on the matter before the commission vote, county attorney Tom Prickett said: “It’s not up to us (the commission) to determine the propriety of the (former) DA’s action. It’s not our job. The phrase in the law ‘as he sees fit’ puts the discretion with the DA. I don’t see anything wrong with it. But our books are always open to the state auditors.”

Casey said after the meeting that she would follow through as stated in her letter to the commission. Other budget amendments

The commission approved the following budget amendments dealing with the receipt of certain funds:

$6,717.51 from Susan Moore for repairs on Susan Moore Road.

$788 from sale of scrap at the county shop.

$11,345.56 received from Christmas light donations at Palisades Park.

$22,998.75 from the Alabama Department of Human Resources in reimbursement of remodeling expenses on space occupied by DHR at the Frank Green Building.

$3500 for grant funds for Palisades Park secured by Rep. Jeremy Oden; funds will be used for repair and maintenance of historic buildings at the park. In other actions, the commission:

appointed three representatives to the Birmingham Regional Emergency Services System board of directors: Scott Payne, Allgood Fire Department chief; Tammy Sherbet, Blount EMS; and Ralph Mitchell, Ricetown Fire Department.

approved extended family medical leave for two county employees.

rescinded its previous action declaring surplus the county license inspector’s vehicle for which another need has been identified.

declared suplus and authorized for sale 26 pieces of construction and excavating equipment from three districts and the county shop, much of it outdated and obsolete. Engineering items

The commission approved an agreement with Locust Fork for annual road maintenance and authorized the commission chairman to sign it.

At District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong’s request, the county engineer recommended speed limits for county road 9 (35 mph), county road 45 (40 mph), and Elvester Road (30 mph). The commission approved all three.

Commission members attending Tuesday’s meeting were District 1 Commissioner Allen Armstrong, District 2 Commissioner Andy Neill (attending his first business meeting), District 3 Commissioner Dean Calvert, District 4 Commissioner Waymon Pitts, and Commission Chairman David Standridge

The next commission work session is Feb. 10 at 9 a.m. in the commission chamber at the courthouse. The next business meeting is Feb. 14 at 9 a.m., also in the commission chamber.