Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin has asked a federal judge not to force her to spend all the money she receives to feed Morgan County Jail inmates for that purpose.
The motion filed by Franklin’s attorneys this week asks U.S. District Judge Abdul K. Kallon to terminate the requirement for jail food spending that was inserted in a 2009 amended consent decree for former Sheriff Greg Bartlett to be cleared from contempt of court.
Kallon on Thursday approved a request by the Southern Center for Human Rights, which is representing inmates in a class-action lawsuit against the county, for a time extension to respond to Franklin’s motion.
A hearing is scheduled for April 14 at 1:30 p.m. in the federal courthouse in Decatur for Franklin to show why she should not be held in contempt of the order.
The Southern Center for Human Rights asked for the show cause hearing because Franklin removed $160,000 from the account in 2015. Franklin loaned $150,000 of the money to a now-bankrupt used automobile dealership.
Franklin and her attorneys have argued that state law allows her to convert to personal use any money left over after feeding inmates. Franklin has replaced the money she withdrew in 2015 despite her claims that the surplus money is hers.
The motion filed by Franklin attorneys Mark Maclin and Barney Lovelace said Franklin wants the chance to present evidence to the court that she has fully complied with the original 2001 consent decree requiring the sheriff to provide inmates a nutritional diet.
Morgan County Jail inmates filed a class-action lawsuit against the county and Sheriff Steve Crabbe in 2001 concerning jail conditions. The two sides agreed to a consent decree later that year, but the case was back in court in 2008 after inmates complained about Bartlett serving them corn dogs three times a day for two months.
Clemon found Bartlett in contempt of the consent decree and ordered Bartlett to federal prison until Bartlett could offer a reasonable solution. Clemon agreed to Bartlett’s proposal that earmarks all inmate food money be spent to feed inmates, and included it in a 2009 amended decree.
Franklin and her attorneys have argued that Clemon erred in including the stipulation in the amended decree and that it only applied to Bartlett to clear Bartlett of contempt.
Attorneys with the center have said the order applies to Franklin because federal civil lawsuit procedures made Franklin a defendant when she succeeded Bartlett.
The motion filed Tuesday gave two reasons for Kallon to eliminate that requirement from the decree.
First, they said, the 2009 amendment by Clemon did not include a finding that “the relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the federal right … .”
They also said Kallon should terminate the amendment because the decree gave Franklin the right to ask that it be dropped at least two years after the 2009 decree.
The Southern Center for Human Rights, which is the court-appointed monitor of the decree, said in an earlier filing that Franklin has had six years to ask the court to not make her spend all the food money to feed inmates, but instead withdrew $160,000 for personal use.
Lovelace and Sarah Geraghty, managing attorney at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday afternoon.