News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Change way county compensates sheriff

Even with the 3 percent increase this month to $60,236 a year, the Morgan County sheriff isn't adequately paid. But add to his pocket the difference between what the state pays to feed county jail inmates and the actual cost of those meals and the picture changes dramatically.

During a recent two-year period that difference amounted to $104,000. So, if the local legislative delegation takes away the food money, as some say they are willing to do, they should also increase the sheriff's pay.

Starting with the premise the sheriff's salary is low and the premise that allowing the sheriff to pocket the leftover money he doesn't spend for food is a conflict of interest regardless of the individual elected to that office, the County Commission and the Legislature should be able to find an equitable solution.

The state pays the sheriff $1.75 per inmate each day to feed them. So when the sheriff spends less than that, he gets the remainder for his personal use.

That's an obvious conflict of interest that needs to be changed. Some powerful legislators say they want statewide legislation to stop the practice in 61 other counties, also.

Based on the two-year experience, the Morgan County sheriff makes more than $100,000 per year. If the county begins accepting federal prisoners to temporarily use up capacity in the new jail, the pay will go higher. The federal government pays $3 per inmate.

Now is the time to change the way the money flows. That money should go to the county because it is taxpayer money.

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