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Reaction to recent state audit over Brookside policing practices

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 6:41 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re getting new reaction to the state’s recent audit into the town of Brookside. We spoke with an attorney representing one of the many people filing suit against the small town.

Birmingham attorney Roger Appell isn’t surprised, after reading through the lengthy audit that looked into finances and policing practices.

The Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts audit found the town’s clerks were collecting cash for everything from water and gas bills to court costs and fines putting them all into one cash drawer without daily counting. Auditors also found guns missing from evidence lockers.

The audit also said about a third of the fees collected from last year were for offenses that aren’t even on the town’s books.

Appell represents a woman who claims Brookside Police allegedly stole $5,000 and prescription pills during a traffic stop.

Appell feels Brookside got away with a lot for far too long.

“It appears that no one knew what they were doing and nobody cared what they were doing. They just wanted more and more money. And became greedy at the cost of the citizens of Brookside and the citizens who surround Brookside and those who weren’t even in the city of Brookside that were just travelling down the road,” Appell said.

The Town of Brookside released this statement reacting to the audit:

The Town of Brookside welcomed receipt of the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts report auditing the Town’s financials and evidence inventory procedures. The Town Council and Mayor Mike Bryan cooperated fully with the Public Examiner’s office as part of Brookside’s efforts to improve its evidence inventory and financial protocols.

The results of the report come two months after the Town Council appointed Henry Irby as Interim Police Chief. Since starting in February, Chief Irby has been addressing evidence inventory procedures and protocols detailed in the Examiner’s report.

“We are well aware of the things we need to address and have been actively doing so,” said Chief Irby.

As an update to the Examiner’s report, Chief Irby has overseen the recovery of the firearms the report stated were unaccounted for. All firearms collected as evidence by Brookside police have been accounted for. Moving forward, Chief Irby is appointing an evidence coordinator to manage inventory.

The Examiner’s report indicated that their review noted that $500,494.75 was collected from various Court funds for the period of October 1, 2020 through February 2, 2022. A review of the Town’s actual audit for 2020 shows that the Town spent $499,495.00 from its General Fund to support the Police Department. Also, based on unaudited numbers for 2021, the Town spent some $685,622.00 for a full time police department.

“Our objective in moving to a full-time police department in 2018 has always been about making our Town safer for our citizens and community. It has never been about raising money to fund other operations of our Town” said Mayor Mike Bryan.

The Town of Brookside is grateful for the suggestions to improve Brookside’s financial practices. Every town has room to develop and implement better protocols to ensure the proper handling of public funds.

The Town of Brookside will continue to retain an independent certified public accounting firm to conduct its annual audit, adopt an annual budget and provide monthly financial updates to the Town Council. The first annual budget was adopted in October 2021 for the fiscal year 2022 under current Mayor Mike Bryan’s leadership.

“This report is a good thing,” said Mayor Mike Bryan. “It lets us know what we need to improve. Our objective will continue to be to promote confidence in local government through transparent practices and respectful interactions with town employees and elected officials.”

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