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Morgan's $800,000 question
Records show bondsman providing monitoring service is linked to company owing county big bucks

By Sheryl Marsh 340-2437

A bail bondsman providing electronic monitoring for Morgan County's corrections program contends that state records tying him to a company that owes the county more than $800,000 are inaccurate.

Chris Putnam says he has owned Alabama Home Detention Inc. since September 2006, although incorporation records show otherwise.

The company provides monitoring for the county's Community Corrections program, which provides alternative sentences for judges.

Putnam said he has no business dealings with former owners and agents of Jail Busters of Morgan County Inc. If he does, he would violate a Madison County judge's order issued when Putnam got court certification for Cheapest Bail Bonds Inc.

Madison Circuit Judge William Bell's order prohibits Putnam from any dealings with Jay McGiboney, James L. Butler Sr., James L. Butler Jr., Gayle Butler and Crystal Butler, former affiliates or officers of Jail Busters. Putnam previously worked for Jail Busters.

Putman's contention is contrary to incorporation documents in the secretary of state's office, which list two of the people in the court order as officers and agent for AHD.

James Butler Jr. said he is not affiliated with AHD or Putnam's bonding company, which has posted $190,450 worth of bonds in Morgan County since February.

Butler Jr. said he gave his interest in AHD to Putnam last year.

Putnam said Butler Sr. was his undisclosed business partner when the business started.

"He was my silent partner back in those days (2005) for financial reasons," Putnam said. "There is no affiliation with my businesses or a Butler or McGiboney."

AHD's 2007 annual report filed with the secretary of state shows McGiboney as president and J.L. Butler Jr. as a registered agent.

"All of that is old and incorrect," Putnam said. "I've owned Alabama Home Detention since September of 2006, as well as a bonding company."

Records accurate

Tamara Cofield, a spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, said the 2007 records are accurate. AHD first incorporated Nov. 23, 2005, under Crystal Butler, Cofield said.

Butler Jr. said Putnam has owned the business since last year and that it's pricey to change officers on incorporation forms.

"It costs money for any of that corporate stuff," said Bulter Jr. "He would have to get a lawyer to go change that for him and it takes money.

To make those changes a person may go to the state Web site, download a statement to change officers or agent, complete it and mail it to the secretary of state. The cost is $5.

Butler Jr. said he doesn't know why McGiboney's name is on the report because he has never been an officer of AHD.

Cofield said McGiboney has appeared on the annual report since 2006.

The only incorporation records found in Putnam's name are for Cheapest Bail Bonds, which he operates out of the Jail Busters old building.

Butler Jr. said Jail Busters allowed the building's utilities to remain in its name when it closed. He said they did so because of Putnam's credit.

In 2004, Morgan County District Judge David Bibb issued a default judgment against Putnam for failure to pay a $1,234 credit card bill. There is no record of payment in the court file.

Putnam said he kept the Jail Busters telephone number for his bonding company because it is easier for people to remember.

"The telephone company told us that if we changed it, they couldn't guarantee that we would get the same number."

The Morgan County Corrections and Court Services Commission gave Director Alison Nix approval in February to let Alabama Home Detention Inc. provide electronic monitoring for the local program. Nix said she chose AHD because it provides monitoring for the county's juvenile program.

Questions about agents and officers of the company arose before the group approved AHD. The Corrections Commission asked Morgan Circuit Clerk John Pat Orr to make sure there was no connection between Putnam and former owners and officers of Jail Busters.

Orr gave clearance to the board, which in turn authorized Nix to do business with AHD.

Orr was baffled to learn about AHD incorporation documents. He said he took Putnam's word that he was not affiliated with the Butlers.

"He swore up and down to me that he wasn't connected to those people," Orr said.

The Madison order further states, "Cheapest Bail Bonds Inc. shall not share expenses with, nor pay monies to, for any reason, whether directly or indirectly with any of the officers, principals and or owners of Jail Busters, Inc."

AHD's main office is in Huntsville on Memorial Parkway Northwest, according to incorporation records and the company's Web site.

Butler Jr., however, says that's not the office for AHD. He said he and his family run a property leasing and management company there.

The Madison court order also prohibits Putnam from occupying any building in which Jail Busters or its owners or officers operated in the past.

"Cheapest Bail Bonds Inc. shall not locate any office in which it does business in any way in any property in which any of the individuals named own or hold an interest, including a leasehold interest, nor shall Cheapest Bail Bonds, Inc. occupy any property nor do business in any property in which Jail Busters Inc. has occupied or done business at any time in the past."

Putman's bonding company is in the former Jail Busters building at 110 Sixth Ave. N.E.

The Daily showed Orr the AHD incorporation documents that list James Butler Jr. as an agent and McGiboney as president/secretary.

"I do not know what the board will do right this second," Orr said. "I'll have to look into it for myself first."

Jail Busters resurrection

Jail Busters tried to resurrect earlier this year, according to Morgan court records.

Shortly after Putnam started his bonding company, McGiboney tried to open another bonding company in Morgan County. Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler denied his application for bondsman certification.

Butler Jr. said McGiboney is his nephew.

The company name was to be 1A Alabama Jail Busters in Morgan County Inc.

Paler's ruling in January states that Jail Busters of Morgan County, Inc. "has been denied the right to be a professional bondsman because of its bond forfeitures in Morgan County in excess of $800,000 that remain unpaid."

In addition, the order states the company withdrew $25,000 escrow money without approval.

"The fact that Mr. McGiboney denies Jamey Butler's involvement in his company and denies he has cut all ties with Jamey Butler evidences the lack of credibility of Mr. McGiboney," the order states. "The court concludes from the totality of evidence that 1A Alabama Jail Busters in Morgan County Inc. is the successor to and the alter ego of Jail Busters of Morgan County, Inc."

Debt in Madison

Madison Circuit Clerk Jane Smith said she doesn't know the exact amount, but the former Jail Busters also owes "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the judicial system there for forfeited bonds.

Smith said the Madison order is still in effect and has not been amended.

County Commission Chairman John Glasscock, who is chairman of the Corrections Commission said, "Obviously, I was unaware of all of this information. "It would probably be premature to try to comment except to say that it should be on our agenda for discussion at our meeting next week."

District Attorney Bob Burrell, who is also a member of the Corrections Commission, said he's eager to discuss the issue.

"I think it's something we need to address one way or the other," Burrell said.

Circuit Judge Steve Haddock, vice chairman of the corrections commission, said he could not talk about the issue and placed it on the "back burner" because he was in court all week.

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