Collins and Bell will not be called to testify in sheriff budget case

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -- FOX6 News has learned that Jefferson County Commission President Bettye Fine Collins and Commissioner William Bell will not be testifying in the court case over $5 million removed from Sheriff Mike Hale's budget.

FOX6 News Reporter Alan Collins has learned that the plan for the court proceedings is to hear from the Sheriff's financial officer and then hear from the Sheriff himself. Sheriff Hale is expected to be the last witness to be called to the stand. Attorneys for the county say they may not call another witness once the Sheriff finishes his testimony. Bettye Fine Collins and William Bell will not be called to testify.

On Tuesday morning, Captain Ron Eddings finished up his testimony in the case. Eddings, the commander of the Birmingham Jail, says that if he is forced to take cuts, his staff will be threatened and violence inside the jail will escalate. When asked by county attorneys why he should not just used hired guards, Edding remained adamant that it would still not lead to a safe atmosphere. At one point, the judge had to intervene when attorneys from the commission and Sheriff Hale began to argue.

This testimony came after the case had already been delayed by an hour and a half. The delay happened when attorneys met behind closed doors with Judge Joseph Boohaker over the progress of the case.

FOX6 News is told that, in the meeting, Judge Boohaker said he would like to see the case move along and he does not want to see many more witnesses. The Judge has previously expressed that the case must wrap up soon due to previous engagements and would like to see the case over by Tuesday afternoon. Currently, the case is on track to finish on time.

This case will be deciding the fate of $5 million dollars that the County has cut from the Sheriff's Department's budget. The Sheriff wants the money back and would like to see a restraining order granted to keep the county from making cuts. The Sheriff says that cuts will place the citizens of Jefferson County in danger, while the County says that the Sheriff will still be able to operate with the cuts in place.

In a related matter, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford has recently announced that he would ask the Birmingham City Council to lend $5 million to the Sheriff's Department if the budget cuts are not lifted by the court. Sheriff Mike Hale says he has met with the Mayor and is appreciative of the offer, but he is not sure how the loan would work.