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WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 16, 2006
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Plan would let lawyers skip courthouse security

By Sheryl Marsh
DAILY Staff Writer

smarsh@decaturdaily.com 340-2437

Morgan County Sheriff Greg Bartlett plans to give courthouse employees and lawyers the privilege of bypassing courthouse security screening.

But some officials question whether it's safe.

Bartlett sent letters to county officials and lawyers telling them that they may skip screening by getting a free identification badge through his department.

All county employees would avoid security checks, the letter stated.

The effective date is Sept. 5. People in the approved class can begin getting identification Aug. 21.

Commissioners Stacy George and Richard Lyons say they oppose creating a select group.

"If we're going to let lawyers in, we may as well open up the gate," said George, during a County Commission meeting Tuesday.

Lyons said there could be disgruntled employees at the courthouse.

After the meeting, George said he plans to talk to Bartlett because he does not have the authority to excuse anyone from going through security.

"We have a resolution that created courthouse security and it clearly states who is in charge of the courthouse," George said. "The only thing the commission did was move security from under Ed Sims, the sales tax director's supervision to the sheriff's. Mr. Sims didn't have the authority to give breaks and neither does the sheriff."

George said he asked Chairman John Glasscock to send Bartlett a letter telling him he needs to meet with the commission to discuss the matter.

"The chairman also needs to inform the sheriff of the resolution we have and state law that makes it plain what his role is in security," George said.

A resolution that the County Commission adopted in 2000 to create courthouse security cites state law, which states, "The county commission has charge of the courthouse and the sheriff, at the direction of the commission, must prevent trespasses and keep out intruders."

It also states that the commission shall have control of all property belonging to the county.

George said all people should be treated equally.

"The lawyers shouldn't be favored over others in the general public, neither should the county employees," George said. "I don't mind going through screening, and I think it's good for not only employees but for elected officials because sometimes they might have a bad day."

Glasscock said, "I think ultimately the commission is in charge of the courthouse."

He said he thinks any exemption in screening should go before the courthouse screening committee.

Bartlett was in Eva where U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, and U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholdt, R-Haleyville, were attending an event. Bartlett was not available via cell phone.

Special identification

In his letter to lawyers he gave an indication about why he was issuing the special identification.

Bartlett wrote them: "We trust that this will be of convenience to attorneys entering the courthouse and a positive privilege to your profession in making your day to day work a little easier."

He noted that the special identification card is the property of his office "and issued as a Privilege (sic) by the Sheriff (sic)."

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