Sheriff Phil Sims

Sheriff Phil Sims

Marshall County Circuit Judge Chris Abel has ruled that Sheriff Phil Sims can keep approximately $30,000 from a Citizens Bank and Trust account that is for feeding inmates.

Citizens Bank earlier this year filed suit in Marshall County Circuit Court asking a judge to rule on who was entitled to the money – former Sheriff Scott Walls or new Sheriff Phil Sims.

The ruling has no bearing on a lawsuit Walls filed against the state of Alabama earlier this year.

State law said sheriffs can keep left over jail food money as personal income and the money was deposited into the account during Walls’ administration. He was sheriff for 12 years, from 2007-2019.

Walls said he was entitled to that money because it was paid during his administration.

Sims contended he was entitled to the money in his role as sheriff because it was intended to feed his inmates.

Abel ruled that Sims, in his capacity as sheriff, but not in his capacity as an individual, is entitled to the money.

“All moneys are hereby ordered to be paid to Phil Sims, in his official capacity as sheriff of Marshall County for official use in 'preparing food, serving food and other services incident to the feeding of prisoners’ as contemplated," Abel wrote in his summary judgment.

In a hearing, Sims and Walls asked for summary judgment and agreed that the matter didn’t need to go before a jury because it was simply a matter of law that needed to be decided.

They agreed on the facts of the case and asked Abel to grant summary judgment, which he did this week.

When it filed the case, Citizens Bank and Trust turned the money over to the court and asked the judge to decide which man was entitled to the money. The Bank was paid back its filing fee and attorney fees from the account.

The court then dismissed Citizens from the lawsuit.

Walls has 42 days to appeal Abel’s decision and 30 days to ask Abel to reconsider his decision.

Earlier this year, Walls sued the state comptroller claiming that left over jail food money should be his as personal income.

Last year Gov. Kay Ivey directed the state comptroller to no longer pay jail food money directly to the sheriffs and asked the legislature to come up with legislation to codify that directive.

The directive said that the funds… “should be directed to the county general fund or to an account established for the sheriff’s official use,” and should no longer be made to the sheriffs personally.

Walls’ suit is challenging whether or not Ivey had the authority to make that directive or did she violate state law that says left over jail funds should go to the sheriff.

That lawsuit is still pending in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

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