Guess what happens when people who operate like Hillary Clinton --- thinking rules don’t apply to them --- take over a bureaucracy. This seems to have happened in Alabama, and it may have been going on a long time. When the new sheriff of Marshall County, Phil Sims, took office in January, he found a cardboard box in a closet containing five smartphones, government issue, with multiple holes drilled all the way through them.
Of course, they probably weren’t under subpoena (though perhaps that’s now subject to change), as Hillary’s devices and those of her aides were. But still.
Sims had defeated longtime Sheriff J. Scott Walls in the June primary election, but this was the first time he’d been allowed to enter his new office. (This reminds me of the time the outgoing administration nailed my office door shut in the Arkansas State Capitol! It happened.) He saw right away that the iPhones and Androids belonging to the outgoing sheriff and his top people had been destroyed, the hard drives had been removed from the computers, and mass quantities of records were just gone.
Many thousands of dollars were missing, too.
Nine out of ten incoming Alabama sheriffs interviewed by ProPublica (as part of a year-long investigation they conducted with AL.com) said that last-minute actions by their predecessors had had negative impact on their offices and, by extension, the public. There was even vandalism –- including juvenile pranks such as pouring raw rice down the drains. The rice had been purchased to feed prisoners, but instead its fate was to swell up with moisture and clog the pipes. The people who did this were allegedly grownups.
Alabama has 67 sheriffs, and they run the show in areas that are outside city limits. These include small towns, unincorporated farmlands and suburbs. The sheriffs get to choose what laws to enforce, whom to arrest, and what assignments their deputies should carry out. They run the county jails and partner with the federal government and other agencies. They may be rural, but some of them are in charge of multimillion dollar budgets.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has cited some of these outgoing sheriffs for abuse of power, and this may be one of those examples of a broken clock being right twice a day.
It appears that there has been a great deal of misappropriation of funds by these sheriffs. They operate their fiefdoms with very little oversight. Six incoming sheriffs have asked for state audits of their offices’ finances and will decide what to do with the results after they see them. Apparently, a lot of money disappeared or was wasted when funds are needed for things like radar detectors, body cams, uniforms, bulletproof vests, tasers and ammo. Sheriff Sims would have bought new handguns for his deputies; the ones they currently carry are over 20 years old. Before they leave office, the outgoing sheriffs typically blow through a lot of money on unnecessary items, apparently to keep the money out of the hands of their successors.
Anyway, the destroyed smartphones and other devices and the corrupt “no-rules-for-me” attitude at work in some of these offices made me think of you-know-who, and we’re reminded of why character counts at every level of government. We know they’re not all going to be Andy Taylor of Mayberry, but the bar certainly needs to be raised. And let’s hope that by the time these incoming sheriffs are ready, in turn, to leave their offices, they won’t have become as jaded and petty as their predecessors.
Wasted Funds, Destroyed Property: How Sheriffs Undermined Their Successors After Losing Reelection — ProPublica