By Connor Sheets
The Alabama Ethics Commission voted on Tuesday to drop an ethics violation case against Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin.
Thomas Albritton, the commission's executive director, confirmed the move in an email to AL.com Wednesday morning.
"Yesterday, the Commission determined that there was insufficient evidence of a violation of the Ethics Act by Sheriff Entrekin to warrant referral to either [Attorney General Steve Marshall] or the appropriate District Attorney and dismissed a pending case against him unanimously," Albritton said.
"Of course, under the Act both of those offices have the ability to separately investigate the issues [that] made the basis of that complaint if they so choose."
The Etowah County Sheriff's Office did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday morning.
Asked for details about the case against Entrekin, Albritton said that it was "related to food accounts."
The Ethics Commission investigation was launched in the months following a March report by AL.com that revealed that Entrekin had pocketed more than $750,000 of public funds allocated for the purpose of feeding inmates in Etowah County's jail over the last three years. He and his wife purchased a $740,000 beach house in Orange Beach in September.
"The law establishes that whereas personal use may look bad, it may be bad policy, it doesn't violate the law. As it relates to this particular sheriff," Albritton said via email Wednesday.
"It really is a county by county analysis [because] the law often varies by county (generally does) regarding the money in food accounts. The investigation revealed that there was no violation of our Act based on the applicable local and state laws."
Entrekin told AL.com in July that he was under investigation by the Ethics Commission and the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General.
"The federal [DHS] OIG is looking at it, they're doing an investigation, so is the Ethics Commission," Entrekin said at the time. "They're looking at the food bill, they've asked for some documents from me ... My lawyer provided them records."
The status of the federal investigation is unknown, as is the status of an ongoing State Bureau of Investigation probe into allegations that he had sex with two underage women in the early 1990s.
Entrekin has argued repeatedly that he did not break any laws by keeping the money, and it appears that he is permitted to do so under a Depression-era state law. But lawyers and experts have said that he may have run afoul of federal law by keeping money his office received from the federal government to feed Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees housed in his jail.
(c)2018 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham