Sheriff Hale seeks help from other commissioners

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale is looking for help from county commissioners other than Commission President Bettye Fine Collins.

Sheriff Hale sent a letter to Collins asking for a meeting with Collins to discuss restoring $10 million to his budget. Collins sent a letter back to Hale saying no.

"She flat out turned us down for a meeting," Hale spokesman Lt. Randy Christian said. "Flat out turned us down for funding. The conflict we have is trying to figure out if she as president speaks for the commission or is one of five votes."

Hale put a number of deputies and civilians on leave without pay October 1 and closed the county jail in the Bessemer Cutoff after the commission cut his 2010 fiscal budget by $10 million. However, Hale has asked to get some of the $50 million from a settlement earlier this month between the county and J.P. Morgan Chase and Company over the county's sewer bond crisis.

Hale said Collins, in her letter to him, refused to give him some of the money from the settlement.

"The sheriff is in control of people," Collins said. "We didn't close the Bessemer jail and we didn't put his people on leave. He did that. We have no more money."

At least some of the five county commissioners favor giving Hale at least some of the money, if not the full 10 million.

"If he has people on furlough, not drawing a paycheck, on unemployment, I want to know how many they are and I want to try to find a way to get these people back to work," said Bobby Humphryes, Jefferson Co. Commissioner.

The sheriff said he is hoping at least three county commissioners will support his push for additional funding for his office and vote on it.

"I just believe a majority of the county commission is going to say public safety is important," Christian said.