Saturday, January 31, 2009

David Andrew McFall - A Life Well Lived

In an age when notoriety is often confused with celebrity, and those of a character once shunned are now considered role models, a man such as David Andrew McFall is a rarity. On January 27, 2009, Mr. McFall died at the age of 88.

Mr. McFall often commented that he was a graduate of the "University of Waterloo." Born in that small community, he spent his early years in this small eastern Lauderdale community until leaving to serve his country in WWII, and returned home to the United States a highly decorated veteran. Upon his return to Lauderdale County, he wed his sweetheart, Arietta Dewberry, a woman he loved and cherished even after her death.

During his life, Mr. McFall was the manager of the Lauderdale County Teachers' Credit Union and a member of the American Legion. Perhaps he was proudest of serving as a deacon at the Oakland Church of Christ.

To his daughter Joan and a host of other loving relatives, we say, "What have they seen in thine house?" His example will live long after him.

Our sincerest sympathies.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Blue Door Thrift Store

For those not familiar with Scope 310, this organization manages the programs for the mentally disabled in Lauderdale and Franklin Counties. Scope 310 is headquartered in the Florence Industrial Park on Helton Drive.

Tuesday, February 3rd, marks the grand opening of Scope 310’s newest project, The Blue Door Thrift Store. Located in the rear of their complex, the store will be open Tuesday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. and for a half day on Saturdays.

This retail endeavor is not-for-profit, with all proceeds going to support Scope 310 projects. Whether you want to shop or just donate, don’t fail to check it out.

What's up with this: State Sen. Bobby Denton is pushing for the completion of the Wilson Dam Road project in Muscle Shoals. Everyone concerned (and that should be all of us) is urged to write Gov. Riley in support of Denton and this project.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sixty Days without a Judge

When George Wallace appointee Judge Mike Suttle retires on January 31, it may be as long as two months before his replacement is announced. Lauderdale County already has a backlog of cases, making a prompt decision not only desirable, but necessary.

Today is the deadline for applicants to file with the selection committee, headed by retired Judge Leslie Johnson. The committee will have until March 1 to send its recommendation of three names to Gov. Bob Riley. Riley will then have an additional 30 days to pick among the three finalists, making it a distinct possibility that Lauderdale County will be minus one Circuit Judge until March 31.

The TimesDaily has reported only one applicant as of a week ago, and Judge Suttle's staff offered no comment when we contacted his office for an update. This is the first instance of Lauderdale County utilizing such a strenuous vetting process, with thorough background checks for all applicants. Perhaps this has deterred some from applying despite the lucrative salary.

Once the commission releases the names of applicants for the position, all citizens of Lauderdale County should feel not only free, but obligated to contribute to this selection process. Perhaps one impediment to citizens' participation in county government is outdated information posted on Lauderdale websites:

If we do not hold our elected officials accountable, no one will. Take the time to make your opinions known.

What's up with this: Judging from the Lauderdale County website referenced above, the county webmaster has been on holiday for some time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who is Shoalanda?

We have been communicating via e-mail with Anderon, one of our major critics in the past. He has been extremely cordial, but states one of his basic objections to this column is the lack of attribution. He points out that when one reads an article in the TimesDaily or similar publication, each story is printed under a byline.

Anderon is correct in this; however, those who write for the print media are employees of that publication. In other words, their articles are backed by their employers. We here at Shoalanda Speaks do not have that luxury. While all but one member of the Shoalanda group is a professional writer, we each have separate jobs that provide the majority of our income.

In brief, here is a biographical rundown of our current group:

E.T. - Male, Computer Programmer, Married, Shoals Native
Zara Goldstein - Female, Accountant, Married with Adult Children, New York Native
Nurse Nan - Female, Registered Nurse, Single, Shoals Native
Amaryllis Caskie - Female, Businesswoman, Married with Children, Shoals Native
Shoalanda Speaks - Female, Editor of this Blog, Shoals Native, and ???

All but one of our members have individual blogs either under their real names or the names listed above. Besides our sister blogs, we support other area blogs, including that of the ShoalsInsider and The Bookstore Speaks. We plan to add more in the near future.

We hope this clears up any misconceptions about Shoalanda. We are happy to publish guest columns and opposing views. We will post these verbatim under the author's name; if the author prefers to use a pseudonym, we reserve the right to edit for style and length. This blog belongs to the Shoals, and we hope to hear from you at



Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inspector Clouseau, er, Chris Hargett

Once again, the citizens of Russellville are safe from 13 year-old boys, thanks to Police Chief Chris Hargett. It seems Hargett has arrested a young middle school student and turned him over to the US Secret Service for manufacture and possession of a counterfeit ten dollar bill. Hargett has suggested this boy may be part of a larger ring that has in recent weeks passed two other bills of larger denominations.

While this youth's actions are hardly commendable, the appropriate action in this case may have been speaking with the child's guardian/s, followed by in-school suspension. The child obviously deserved a stern and memorable reprimand, but arrest?

You may remember that Chris Hargett, Russellville police chief since 2004, failed to be reappointed on the city council's first vote late last year. Councilman Lanny Hubbard voted against Hargett based on his cowboy form of law enforcement. Hargett was reappointed on the second vote, over Hubbard's objections.

It seems the city of Russellville may also be facing a lawsuit over its handling of a drug bust late last year. Hargett has contended that innocent bystanders are collateral damage in his war on drugs. Perhaps the best way not to become part of Hargett's collateral damage is to avoid Russellville altogether and spend your shopping dollars in Colbert and Lauderdale Counties.

What's up with this: Last week saw more state workers on and around O'Neal Bridge--too bad none of them was painters.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Courthouse Forum

Judging by the number of posts in local forums, there is intense interest in local trials, judges' rulings, and similar legal matters. While it appears to be underutilized, the Courthouse Forum allows individuals from all areas of the country to keep track of legal proceedings at many levels. You may not find what you're looking for, but you just may have the privilege of being the first to post an opinion on members of the local elected judiciary.

As for Lauderdale County, each citizen should be avidly following the search for Judge Mike Suttle's replacement. According to the TimesDaily, only one attorney has applied for this position. If no Republicans should survive the selection committee's vetting process, it will be interesting to see how Gov. Bob Riley handles the final selection

What's up with this: Is there anyone in Florence city government who can tell us the status of the Mobile Plaza renovation project?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Chinese Nurses?

Beginning this month, the University of North Alabama and the Shoals area will see an increase in Chinese faces. Is this a good thing? Absolutely. International students increase local sales tax revenue as well as UNA's prestige. Unfortunately, at least in one area, the increase in Chinese students has its drawbacks.

Approximately two years ago, the United States eased restrictions on student visas for the Chinese. International students usually pay a higher tuition than US citizens and bring needed dollars to the local economy, making their recruitment a shrewd investment. On September 2, 2008, the University of North Alabama signed an agreement to partner with the American Education Institution, paving the way for a large delegation of Chinese students to arrive in Florence this January.

Both Dr. Evan Ward, Director of the Center for International Students, and Jacque Segars Behrens, Director of International Student Recruiting, have worked diligently to bring about this partnership. UNA press releases have stated that these Chinese students will, for the most part, major in Business, Arts & Sciences, and Nursing.

Whether all of these Chinese students will return home after graduation is unknown, but obviously this is the plan at the outset of their studies. In other words, the University of North Alabama will now be training nurses to return to China, nurses that will not become part of the health system in this country.

Dr. Birdie Baily, Dean of the College of Nursing, has stated that admission into the nursing program is highly competitive. In other words, not all who apply are admitted. According to statistics on UNA's website, the College of Nursing has averaged graduating 37 nurses a year since its inception. Those familiar with the various nursing programs at UNA realize that many of these 37 were already Registered Nurses who were attending UNA in order to obtain a coveted BSN. While these international students will not supplant the Registered Nurses in the Bridge Program, they will obviously edge out some of the traditional students.

This begs the question: Is the role of our local nursing school to make money, or is it to train our citizens for a productive life of service in US health care?

Thanks to JLC for suggesting this topic.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fast Food--Tasty & Elegant

Okay, elegant may be too gushing a word, but we think you'll certainly find this food tasty. For those who have lamented the loss of Mr. Dog at Shoal Creek, the Creekside Cafe in now open. Give them a try and report back to us on how you liked it.

Just slightly to the east, the Elgin Grill is now open. This new establishment is located in the old Davis Burger House building and offers the usual mainstays plus carhops. That's right, you don't have to patronize the Sonic anymore in order to enjoy curb service, but we can't promise anyone on roller skates.

Finally, we've received numerous inquiries about Jack's on Florence Boulevard. Yes, this Birmingham chain is building a new restaurant immediately to the west of their present location. Management tells us this will reduce traffic hazards at their drive-thru, since all parking will be to the east of the building. There will also be greatly increased parking facilities, as well as larger and more elegant restrooms. All this plus the best biscuits in the Western Hemisphere? Who could ask for more?

What's up with this: The TimesDaily can't seem to decide if the punishment for First Degree Rape is ten years or twenty.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Read on the Cheap

We hope all of our readers are just that--avid readers. When the temperature drops, there's nothing like cuddling up and reading a best seller that's just been lying on our bookshelf.

What, you couldn't afford thirty dollars for that hardback best seller? Don't worry, a couple of local libraries are about to hook you up. Until January 31, the Friends Store at the Florence Library is selling all hardback fiction at half price, making the majority of the books not over $2.50. There's also a large selection of mass market and trade paperbacks on sale. Any book marked with a white sticker is half price.

February is certainly the month for romance, and once again the Florence Public Library and Killen Library bookstores will be offering all mass market romances for half price. If you're not familiar with the Killen Bookstore, it sits just to the east of the library in an older giraffe house. The Killen store is open only on Fridays and Saturdays and is well worth the drive. Tell them Shoalanda sent you.

Notice: All political and legal advertising will now be placed in one of our sister blogs. We are sorry for any inconvenience.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


When we began this blog, we had no qualms about allowing comments. We have been happy to print any opposing views in the past; however, this feature has recently been used to threaten members of this blog team, as well as to imply the name of a rape victim will be made public.

If you have any comments, pro or con, or suggestions for future stories, please continue to contact us at

As for the case in question, Troy King's office has been notified of these threats as well as previous ones related to this case. Rest assured when the case is brought to trial next month, there will be several members of rape response present. If the accused is found not guilty, we will report on it. If he is found guilty, we will report on it.

There is no excuse for any man (or woman) beating, raping, fondling, or otherwise abusing anyone else, especially a child or other person placed in his care. It is sad that we live in a world in which it is necessary to state that, but that is apparently the case.

On a more personal note, please pray for the victim in this case. It has been extremely hard for her and her family the past few months.



Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Led by the Spirit: A Review

Today is the first in our ongoing local author book reviews. We are proud to introduce our new Shoalanda member, Amaryllis Caskie, who will be doing reviews as well as other reporting.

Title: Led by the Spirit
Author: Phyllis White
Publisher: Self
Genre: Paranormal/Contemporary
ISBN: Unspecified
Pages: Unspecified
Series: N/A
Reviewer: Amaryllis Caskie
Rating: *

Rating System:
* Severely Flawed (Pass on this one)
** Problematic (A struggle to finish)
*** Enjoyable (Pleasant read)
**** Compelling (Page turner)
***** Fantastic (Keeper)

White's first book, Led By The Spirit, reads like a first draft, replete with spelling and grammar errors, and has a predictable plot with more than a few standard epic horror cliches: a middle aged hero with his destiny thrust upon him, meddlesome supernatural beings, and a two dimensional cast of thousands. How the characters get from one scene to the next is unclear, and the ending is quite abrupt and unbelievable. The conflict in this book is flimsy, at times ludicrous, and perceptive readers will likely see right through to White's battle with her own demons. Readers may well be put off by detailed sex scenes involving pedophilia.

Summary: Brian Peterson thought he had met the perfect woman; young, beautiful, passionate, his trophy wife...but when they bought the old store things changed drastically. Her obsession and love affair with the long deceased previous owner, led them both down a long road toward destruction. A spine tingling story revealing how innocent people can be influenced and led astray from the Truth into a realm of darkness when they allow themselves to be....led by the spirit.

(This book is not available in local bookstores, but may be ordered from the authoress.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

This Child Was Abused Twice

While not equal to sexual abuse, the physical abuse of a child is untenable. When our elected officials fail to act against the crime, it amounts to a second act of abuse.

It seems Franklin County resident Raymond McKinney shook his four-month old son until the child developed a brain bleed. While the child did not die, he has permanent brain damage and will in all probability suffer seizures the rest of his life. McKinney was charged with a Class C felony.

After McKinney's arrest, his mother Ruby McKinney threatened the life of her daughter-in-law if she should testify. When the child's mother reported Ruby, the elder McKinney was also charged with a Class C felony. Are these two acts comparable? Apparently Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing thinks so.

The two trials are set for early this year. If you feel that Raymond McKinney has been insufficiently charged for his heinous act, please contact Mr. Rushing and let him know that you are in disagreement with his call on this one.

What's up with this: The Shoals is filled with talent, especially the literary variety. Tomorrow we will publish the first in a series of book reviews by a new edition to the Shoalanda team. Don't miss it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Public Records on the ShoalsInsider

There has been much discussion of late as to public records. In years past the TimesDaily printed various lists of indictments, divorces, property transfers, and much more. Currently, our local newspaper prints only arrests and indictments, and those at its own discretion. As for divorces or foreclosures, interested parties have been forced to subscribe to the local credit bureau report or visit the area courthouses in person.

Recently, the ShoalsInsider has filled this gap. Approximately twice a month this online news source lists various public records, along with other local news of interest that the TimesDaily apparently views as unworthy of publication.

The ShoalsInsider is listed in the links to the left of this column. If you haven't yet visited this online newspaper, delay no longer. Your first visit will not be your last.

What's up with this: Current Sheffield City Council members have negated Billy Don Anderson's two percent city employee raise in favor of a one-time raise based on seniority. Kudos to Ian Sanford and the council for taking the city's budget seriously.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Shoalanda Speaks is a conservative political blog. The political opinions expressed herein are those of myself or a guest columnist. The endorsements for candidates made herein are totally based on my conservative philosophy and educational experience. I welcome comments and rebuttal and will not delete any comments unless they contain epithets. I will add that a comment questioning the author’s wisdom or mental state does not carry the weight of one containing actual facts.

Second, it is the intention of this columnist to publish occasional columns on local residents arrested and indicted for serious and/or heinous crimes. I greatly appreciate input from my readers, but unless someone has actually been charged with a crime, they are not public figures and are not appropriate subjects for this blog.

I do grasp the gravity of a minister sexually seducing members of his congregation or problems involving the lack of grandparental rights in this state, but these are for the most part private matters and should remain so unless a law is broken.

If any reader should need advice on the appropriate steps to take in legal matters, I will do my best to refer them to attorneys or agencies that can be of assistance.

As to the content of columns addressing local crime, 95% or more of the data included in these accounts have been published elsewhere on the Internet and are merely being recorded here in a chronological narrative for the benefit of the reader. In other words, my faithful singular critic, I am not relating any information here that cannot be obtained through other public sources.

I hope that this clears up any misconceptions about this blog. It’s about the Shoals; it’s about you. Please continue to submit your story ideas and guest columns.

Many thanks,


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Why Judge Suttle?

Psychologists tell us that next to a death in one's immediate family, divorce is the most traumatic experience known in today's world. Sadly, divorce is still a fact, a necessary evil, in some marriages. We expect the state to help us attain our freedom with the least amount of upheaval possible. We retain attorneys with that end in mind. So...divorce always goes well for everyone, especially here in caring and enlightened North Alabama? No. Apparently for many in our midst, the opposite is true.

One local man has experienced the ultimate in betrayal. He has lost his wife, partial custory of his child, and faith in the local judicial system. Now Mark Davis wants his story told. It's a tale that everyone should read and remember, no matter one's opinion of divorce.

Mr. Davis asks not only "Why Judge Suttle?," but has an interesting take on a local divorce lawyer, an attorney who is also the municipal judge in Rogersville and the sister of another Lauderdale County judge.

If any readers should need the services of a divorce attorney, please remember these basics, if you remember nothing else.

1. He or she should give you a free or inexpensive consultation without demanding you sign a contract.

2. You should have a definite idea of the total fee from the start. Custody issues cost more, but some attorneys who charge by the hour seek to up their fees by dragging their feet.

3. Ask your divorced friends whom they used. Don't just ask if they liked the attorney; ask if the attorney achieved the expected results and if he/she sprang any hidden fees.

4. When you look in the phone book and see a full page ad, remember this attorney's clients paid for it. Good advertising doesn't make a good lawyer. You will be much better off with a conservative professional who doesn't boast four hundred dollar haircuts or reek of Hermes cologne.

Now, let's hear from anyone who has had a bad experience, or a good one, with Judge Suttle or the attorney mentioned in this website. Feel free to post in the comment section or privately e-mail me.

Thought for the day: The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The New Outpost 72

The Outpost 72 has been a Shoals fixture for many years, experiencing several owners. Now, there's a new management team who hope to restore what the public has always liked about the rural eatery, while expunging recent problems.

It seems the Outpost was closed for a few days recently, sparking rumors that the Lauderdale County institution was no longer in business. Rest assured that the closing was related to an update and general maintenance. The new managers have removed the wall installed by the most recent owners and restored the dining room to its original appearance.

The classic menu will remain the same, but with some additions. The new owners also plan to work on the issue of slow service that has plagued the restaurant in recent years.

I urge all fans of great barbecue and delicious deserts to give this old favorite another try. It's located in the Center Star community just east of Killen. Be sure to tell them Shoalanda sent you.

What's up with this: If your State representative is attending the Presidential Inauguration on Monday, you might want to ask who's footing the bill.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Roger Lovelace, Alice Martin, & Barack Obama

In all probability, one of Barack Obama's initial acts as President will be to clean house at the Justice Department, and US Attorney Alice Martin will be one of the first forced to pursue new venues. Sources say she is anticipating this reversal of fortune and is attempting to tie up the loose ends of several North Alabama cases, among them the Lovelace FloGas/FloWeb debacle.

I am not the first to suggest that Roger D. Lovelace's latest antics may be a desperate attempt to elude prosecution. After all, what 62 year-old executive procures a badge from the local police chief and begins stopping vehicles at random? While Lovelace has always had his quirks, this is bizarre even for him.

There is no parole in Federal Prison; those incarcerated in Federal institutions usually serve 85% to 90% of their sentence, assuming they are well-behaved captives.Considering the amount of money involved in the Lovelace case, a sentence of 20 years would not be unheard of. Obviously, Lovelace has no desire to lose his freedom until his ninth decade, making hospitalization for mental defect seem extremely appealing.

If this is Lovelace's plan, let us hope that Lauderdale and Colbert County authorities will not be deceived into helping him pull it off. Let's accept nothing less than the money he owes the citizens of Florence.

What's up with this: Gasoline prices are on the rise again; do we have any idea how long our local governments will continue to collect their two-cent per gallon Robert Trent Jones tax?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Is Your Child's Teacher Trash?

From the comments on yesterday's article concerning Jason Lyn Gasque, it is apparent that many are still unfamiliar with the term "Pass the Trash." This phrase has been used in many contexts and even as the appellation of a poker game, yet to those in the hallowed halls of academe it means passing a bad teacher off on an unsuspecting new school.

How can parents be aware of bad teachers in Alabama, especially sexual predators? While there is a national database of teachers who have been reprimanded, it includes such "crimes" as failure to make payments on student loans. There are currently over 500 names of sanctioned teachers in the Alabama data base.

For those parents who wish to investigate only those infractions of a sexual nature, this data base is almost useless. There are web sites that report exclusively on sexual crimes involving teachers, among them Teacher Crime and Bad, Bad Teacher. The latter has just added Jason Gasque to its list:

Unfortunately, Alabama schools are required to check only state records when performing a background check on prospective educators. One local woman is now working to correct this oversight, and we will be reporting on her quest later this year.

As for Coach Gasque, a University of North Alabama employee has reported that he was hired against the wishes of Colbert County High School's principal and athletic director. If this is true, it is even more disturbing that A.D. Steve Mask would attempt to quell the reports of Gasque's infractions while at the high school.

If you are the parent of a school-age child, no matter how young or old, take the time to discuss these issues with him or her. Predatory teachers are not a product of the 21st century--they have always been with us. It's time we faced the problem and eradicated it.

What's up with this: Sources report that financing problems have halted construction on the new Rick's Barbecue at Elgin. Here's hoping Mr. Lanning will be able to resolve these issues and be open by Spring.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jason Lyn Gasque--Pass the Trash

Jason Lyn Gasque is 31 years old and has already had more jobs than many of us do in a lifetime. Why? It's called "Pass the Trash."

The son of Bennie and Vickie Gasque of Leighton, Jason Lyn was a good student and better athlete. This is a combination often found in sexual predators (see Keith McGuire story). Growing up in Leighton, he was popular due to his athletic accomplishments, and few in the small town would have failed to recommend Gasque for whatever endeavor he chose to pursue.

Jason Gasque and his wife live on Berry Circle in Florence, an upscale neighborhood located between Greenbriar and Hickory Hills. It's a long drive from his home in Florence to his latest teaching assignment in Speake in Lawrence County, but apparently no one saw this as odd. Apparently no one was really looking at Jason Lyn Gasque until now.

In the autumn of 2005, Gasque was teaching at Richland High School in Lynnville, Tennessee. The next autumn, he was hired at Florence High School as a math teacher. Gasque lasted two years at Florence High before taking the position of Assistant Softball Coach at Colbert County High School, an institution located in his hometown of Leighton.

After six months on the job at Colbert County High, five female softball players came forward to complain that Gasque had made inappropriate comments to them. Not waiting for a hearing, Coach Gasque immediately sought an audience with Colbert County Superintendent Billy Hudson to tender his resignation. Rumors were rife in the community, but Athletic Director Steve Mask defended his friend--an action that allayed fears in much of the provential town. After all, Gasque was one of their own, and Mask wouldn't have defended him if there had been an iota of truth to the accusations.

The fall of 2008 saw Jason Gasque coaching and teaching math at Speake High School in Lawrence County. The small community of Speak is located just southeast of Moulton. Those who travel 157 to Cullman may not even realize they are passing through a town unless they are faithful observers of signage. Now after only five months in this position, Coach Jason Gasque is in trouble again, but this time his actions have led to an arrest.

Accused of inappropriately touching a 16 year-old female student in Speake High School's parking lot, Gasque has been arrested for sexual abuse. How did the school systems that employed Jason Lyn Gasque let down both their communities and the students in their charge?

It's called "Pass the Trash," and it has to stop.

What's up with this: If you don't know how to read your various utility meters, refer to online instructions at city websites; then you'll know more than many professional meter readers.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New Habitat Store in North Florence

The old Liberty Super Market at Seven-Points in North Florence sits vacant no more. The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store has moved from its South Royal Avenue location to the intersection of Royal Avenue and Howell Street. This building is roomy and more appealing than the site of the old store, plus it offers an abundance of off-street parking.

Those who grew up in North Florence, once known as Needmore, have fond memories of the old Liberty grocery, where former police chief Rick Thompson once toiled as a bag boy. After Liberty's closure, Martin Industries purchased the building for its engineering department. Perhaps the Habitat managers will find time to remove the unsightly testing tower erected by Martin. It's one of the few unsightly edifices located in the quaint community.

With everyone searching for a bargain, this expanded store should be a first stop for those in the market for home improvement paraphernalia. Plus, when we make a purchase there, we're not lining the pockets of corporate executives, we're helping to build our community.

What's up with this: It seems Florence animal control officers partially blame Tennessee residents for the high number of abandoned animals at the local shelter. Hopefully our friends to the north will be shamed into building their own shelters. It's another sad commentary on how we treat those who can't help themselves.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Willis, May, & Plott: Open Books?

* Her husband beat her, stole her bank cards, and left her with two children to support, one of whom was seriously handicapped. Her father and brother had just lost their jobs, and DHR informed her it would be two weeks before she received any benefits. For those two weeks she wrote bad checks for groceries and gasoline.

* His wife and child killed by a drunk driver, he turned to alcohol himself. Due to an inheritance, he had no need to work, but was usually so drunk he forgot to transfer funds to his checking account. Eventually the Colbert County District Attorney's office refused to offer him continued leniency.

* She was abducted as she left her workplace, beaten, and repeatedly raped. Her physical and mental health diminished, she was unable to hold a job. Her husband deserted her, and her son turned to drugs, ultimately stealing her check book and with it all her savings. Experiencing a downward mental spiral, she continued to write checks with no money in the bank.

* Her father died six weeks after her mother's death, and her husband lost his job. There was a month's wait at Riverbend for counseling services, and she turned to alcohol. Her third DUI in as many weeks brought severe repercussions.

Obviously the four individuals cited here failed (for whatever reason) to handle their personal and health-related crises in a productive manner, resulting in all four spending time in local correctional facilities. That does not make them a Charles Manson or Bonnie Parker. Our system is broken, and there have been few efforts to correct its inherent problems. The fact that these individuals were not offered at least one chance at mental health counseling before being incarcerated is a shameful mark on the legal system in Alabama; the fact that some of theses individuals were not provided adequate nutrition during their jail stay is reprehensible.

Sources inform us that the Lauderdale Detention Center provides gourmet cooking compared to that offered in Colbert and Franklin Counties. For that Sheriff Ronnie Willis should be commended. Yet, he should still be held accountable for any funds left over from his food budget.

Do we know how much Ronnie Willis, Ronnie May, or Larry Plott syphon from the respective food funds of Lauderdale, Colbert, and Franklin Counties? The answer is apparently no. In less than two years these three incumbents will be up for re-election. If this archaic law of allowing Alabama sheriffs to profit from excess in the food budget has not been repealed by then, we need to hold these men accountable for our tax dollars lining their deep personal pockets.

What's up with This: The percentage of unsolved murders is higher in Lauderdale than Alabama's murder capital of Jefferson County. Apparently the stars of CSI receive more forensic training than local detectives.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Osborne Ink on Roger Lovelace

Shoals political pundit Matt Osborne wears many hats. One of them is blogger.

I have not before added Mr. Osborne's blog Osborne Ink to my list of "must reads" mainly due to his blog's evolution toward national and world politics. Yet when Mr. Osborne returns to local politics, he does so with pithy eloquence.

His column on former FloGas manager Roger Lovelace is so informative as to be breathtaking. It demonstrates how little most of us know of the inner workings of the Florence political machine. I will not reveal here any of its explosive revelations; you should read them in Mr. Osborne's own words.

If the Lauderdale County judicial system drops the ball on Lovelace this time, each registered voter needs not to ask, but demand an explanation.

What's up with this: Speaking of making your opinions known, if you're tired of that money pit commonly referred to as a Sportsplex, be sure to ask your elected officials if they know the meaning of the words "financial accountability."

Friday, January 9, 2009

Trivia, but Not Trivial

Few can resist the pull of trivia, whether we like to impress our friends with our knowledge of the Crimean War or accost strangers arguing over the year of the great ice storm. Now, those of us who find the greatness in trivia can join others in the Shoals, even competing for our area, state, or country.

Original Bama, an administrator for the Shoals Forum on Free Forums, an avid trivia buff, began a trivia contest on Fun Trivia some months ago. During its existence, it's evolved and become something of an institution, drawing many area players. OB invites us all to join in the fun as the contest begins its second full year.

For those who haven't played, each day of the week features a distinct topic. The test is timed, so be sure to use a standard mouse and not a touch pad. The test itself changes during the day, so that families with several members don't have an unfair advantage over the single player.

If you find yourself addicted to this form of trivia, the host site Fun Trivia offers other contests throughout the day and is definitely a must-add for your favorites list. Here's the link and happy trivialities:

What's up with this: Anyone called local sheriffs Ronnie Willis or Ronnie May to see just how much money they're pocketing from prisoner food accounts?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Roger Lovelace and Flogas - Part IV

One has to wonder if Lovelace saw the demise of a public FloWeb as the beginning of the end of his career at FloGas. In all probability, he did not. His immediate superior was still Jack Hilliard and, earlier in his career, he had survived rumors that he had helped his son hack into Pentagon computers. Lovelace continued his rush to an FBI investigation that is still ongoing.

Contending that replacement pipe for the FloGas system did not fall under bid laws, he purchased large amounts from at least two companies at inflated prices. The Florence system was not expanding, a fact that produced dismay in several newer subdivisions, including Heritage Village to the north of Florence. Why the need for so much pipe? An official inventory found enough stockpiled replacement pipe to reach to Birmingham and back.

Lovelace also was known to use gas department labor at his home and continued to use his brother-in-law's construction company, not bothering to request official change orders to existing purchase and construction contracts. In all, over $420,000.00 additional work was given to Ronnie Golden's construction company without proper approval. To add further insult, Lovelace authorized the loan of FloGas equipment to Golden Construction, including phone lines.

Whether one is a Scott Carrier fan or not, the late Florence Councilman, along with a handful of other concerned private citizens, succeeded in bringing Lovelace's malfeasance to light. By now, Bobby Irons was mayor, and while he was reported to be no fan of the corrupt gas department manager, neither was he anxious to fire the department head.

For almost two years, Roger Lovelace remained on FloGas payroll, finally retiring in 2006. When Jack Hilliard also retired, Mayor Irons eliminated the position of General Utilities Manager and combined the Gas and Water Departments under Mike Doyle, who has managed to keep a low profile during his stint at the helm.

Roger Lovelace then went to work for the Brinks Security Company where he planned to work until retiring at the age of 70. While already drawing a substantial retirement from the city, Lovelace should have been in a position to offer his expertise to charities and other social causes, thus insuring a more inspiring legacy. Now it seems we will be filing Roger D. Lovelace's latest chapter under notoriety, and the FBI has yet to weigh in with its official report.

Visitors to the Florence Municipal Building may have noticed changes in recent months. Where a photograph of Roger Lovelace used to grace the wall, now hangs a poster of a colorful Dalmatian--a sad commentary indeed.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Roger Lovelace and Flogas - Part III

If Florence officials were initially happy with Roger Lovelace's FloWeb, many others were not. One local businessman, hoping to start an ISP in the private sector, went as far as retaining hotshot Florence attorney Marshall Gardner to sue the city over its intrusion into the private sector. The businessman decided to drop the lawsuit, but others were still skittish about FloGas' foray into the still-new realm of the Internet.

Rising costs of running FloWeb, few private subscribers, and a missing $215,000.00 Cisco router signalled the death of Roger Lovelace's pet project, but the Florence gas manager's troubles were just beginning. After losing almost a half million dollars in the FloWeb debacle, it was learned that he failed to lock in low natural gas prices during this period. Lovelace blamed subordinates, but did admit that he had not kept track of the overall workings at FloGas while he had been absorbed with the now defunct FloWeb.

Apparently, Roger Lovelace had not kept track of other matters as well, failing to take a $128,776.83 discount on a construction project. When auditors began to delve into the financial machinations of Florence's gas utility, they soon discovered that the company benefiting from Lovelace's oversight was Golden Construction, a company owned by Ronnie Golden, Lovelace's brother-in-law and brother to Donnie Golden, a former member of the infamous Colbert County Dawson gang.

Many Florence residents were enraged by the manager's actions during a period of rising natural gas prices and complained to city officials, who began a deeper investigation into Roger Lovelace's financial dealings. Having been shocked by the initial reports of the gas manager's haphazard business dealings, they were now dumbfounded by the emerging new revelations.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Roger Lovelace and Flogas - Part II

When Jack Hilliard had taken over the management of the Florence Gas Department, it was considered something of a poor relation to the Electricity Department. Until Alabama-Tennessee Natural Gas completed its pipeline in the early 1950s, heating with gas was a rarity in this area. Hilliard was credited with almost singlehandedly making FloGas what it was in the early 1990s, a fact not lost on Florence Mayor Eddie Frost.

It was no secret that Frost wished to combine the management of the Electric, Gas, and Water Departments when the long-time electric manager retired. He felt that Hilliard could do for the other two entities what he had done for natural gas. There was wide speculation as to who would fill Hilliard's Gas Manager shoes when he stepped into the new position of Utilities General Manager. Very few had their money on Roger D. Lovelace who was not known for either his people or managerial skills. When the city announced Lovelace's appointment as Jack Hilliard's successor, a long-time Alabama-Tennessee Natural Gas manager was heard to have said, "He knows where the bodies are buried."

Lovelace took over the management of FloGas in 1993 and by 1995 was lobbying for its own Internet Provider Service. Florence needed a computer service, and Lovelace convinced the City Council that he could provide the needed services at a much cheaper rate than America On Line, the leading contender. When the completed ISP was in place, Lovelace dubbed it FloWeb and named himself the webmaster, a position separate from his duties as gas manager and one that offered a second substantial salary.

Elected officials were initially pleased with Lovelace's work and the money he was saving the city. After a few years of municipal use, Lovelace then proposed offering FloWeb to the citizens of Florence, and by 2000, the city became one of only three governmental entities offering Internet Service to the private sector. Lovelace then initiated an elaborate website featuring FloGas' private weather station, prominently showcasing the company's offices on Rickwood Road.

Despite Lovelace's lack of diplomacy or humility, it seems he was heading in the same direction as his mentor Jack Hilliard. Then Roger Lovelace's tower of Internet power began to tumble.

To be continued...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Roger Lovelace and Flogas - Part I

Retired Florence Gas Department manager Roger Lovelace was arrested Sunday for impersonating a Florence police officer. According to his defense attorney, Tim Case, Lovelace was released from the Florence-Lauderdale County Detention Center after posting a $1,000.00 bond.

Lovelace is 62 years old, lives in the exclusive Indian Springs community, and now works for the Brinks Security Company. What would compel a man in his position to commit a felony of this nature? Perhaps his previous life may offer some answers.

Roger Lovelace was reared in the North Florence neighborhood of Dulin Heights and attended Florence City Schools. Whether because of academic problems or other issues, Lovelace fell behind, graduating from Coffee High School in the late 1960s. Friends report that the he was an inveterate prankster and constant fixture on what was then known as "The Strip," a short access road running between Cherry Hill Homes and the old Florence K-Mart.

After graduation, Lovelace joined his half-brother Doyle in the natural gas industry. Doyle Lovelace worked for many years in the now defunct Alabama-Tennessee Natural Gas Company, while Roger toiled at the Florence Gas Department, commonly called FloGas.

Perhaps Lovelace would have been relegated to field work his entire career, but in the early 1980s, technology gave the future gas department manager a break. It seems that Roger Lovelace was a computer whiz.

When the natural gas industry began using computer technology in metering stations and gas accounting, Lovelace was in his element. He quickly rose to the position of assistant manager under Gas Department Manager Jack Hilliard. Many who knew the assistant manager were surprised at his sudden rise in the department, but thanks in part to Hilliard's own success, Roger Lovelace still had places to go.

To be continued...

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It Really is Shoal Creek

I've received several requests to do columns on local attractions, including those indigenous to the area. Certainly our beautiful Shoal Creek is one of them. Rippling northward to Lawrenceburg, the body of water seems too large to be designated a simple creek. Most of us cross Shoal Creek with enough regularity that it deserves both our awe and respect.

Recently, TimesDaily journalist Trevor Stokes, an admitted immigrant from the north, did an article on a home located on Shoal Creek, referring to our beloved body of water as "Shoals." Yet we can't foist all blame on those blasted carpetbaggers, as recently as the fall election, our now Lauderdale County Commissioner Rhea Tays Fulmer, who claims to be a native, referred to this body of water in the same haphazard manner (We don't need no education, apparently to be elected in Northwest Alabama).

If there should be some non-natives reading this article, rest assured the wide expanse of water separating Florence from Killen is indeed named Shoal Creek. Now, if we could just get people to pronounce Gunwaleford Road properly...

What's up with this: Rumors are flying about the involvement of a Barnett Plumbing Truck in a weekend high speed chase that spanned two counties. For those who don't know, the owner of this company is the father of Keith Barnett, another victim in our local unsolved murder files.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Basketball Coach or Abuser

If you think this is going to be another column about Keith McGuire, former Clements coach and Lexington resident, you're mistaken, but the similarities of the cases are remarkable. It should be noted that according to a study published in Readers' Digest, 35% of all predators have worked as school teachers at some time.

Russell Hough, now 39, was a coach in Warrensburg, Missouri, a small community located just outside the Whiteman Air Force Base. In 2004, he was accused of improprieties with female students, but Warrensburg High School took no action. When accused again in 2006, this time by six female players who claimed the coach touched them during practice, the school suspended Hough; however, the school board almost immediately reinstated the coach without interviewing the young women who made the accusations. The board's actions resulted in a civil suit against the system. Still, Hough remained at the school.

Now, Coach Russell Hough has been accused of having sexual encounters with two students, ages 14 and 16, on school property. He has been indicted for these 2008 statutory rapes among other offenses and is awaiting trial.

How did the school board allow this to happen? For every four e-mails or other communications I've received about the similar situation at Clements, I have received one that has defended a "wonderful man who is the victim of a vindictive ex-wife and students." Certainly, it isn't easy to believe that those we've trusted with our children are actually sexual predators--sometimes child pornographers, but unfortunately it's often the case.

For those who have accused the victims in rape cases, please stop to consider this: Do you really want to take the chance with your wife, sister, or children? I sincerely hope the answer is no.

What's up with this: It seems their Lexington arrest isn't the first time that Anthony Willis and Kelly Quick have been in trouble, according to family they've been stealing from them for some time. It may be difficult, but sometimes "tough love" is what it takes.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Dr. Max Carrington

Each year we unfortunately lose those who have influenced our lives and community for the better. Dr. Max Carrington, a retired UNA business professor was such a man.

I'm sure his passing late last year brought back many memories for those of us who attended the University of North Alabama. I will share two stories told to me over the years.

Dr. Carrington often proctored examinations for professional certifications. Late one spring, in the middle of a heat wave, one of his former students was taking such an exam in Bibb Graves Hall. At this point, the woman was in her mid-thirties and had not seen Dr. Carrington in years. When she attempted to bring a canned Coke into the testing room, first Dr. Carrington frowned, then he admonished her, remembering her name after all that time. She took the offending soft drink to the trash basket immediately.

Dr. Carrington was also given to wearing a certain sweatshirt with scribbles on it. At just a casual glance, the figures appeared to be Arabic, but upon closer inspection proved to be shorthand. The front of the shirt read, "Max is the Boss." The back read, "I'm Max!"

The Shoals community has lost a dear friend. I hope that he knew what he meant to the university and the entire area.

What's up with this: It seems the TimesDaily editor, T. Wayne Mitchell, recently asked, "What's the ShoalsInsider?" Perhaps this is why the newspaper's circulation is plummeting.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009 to All God's Creatures!

2008 Passes into History

As one of largely Scots heritage, I routinely think of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne each New Year's Eve. This blog is relatively new, but I already have fond remembrances of many kind communications from readers.

The majority of comments have concerned this week's columns on Brandi Lee Campbell and past articles on Keith McGuire. Overwhelmingly readers have appreciated these blogs and have added information for future columns.

I have also received many kind words for promoting the works of several local organizations and charities, many previously unknown to our readers.

In January, we will begin a series of articles on local child pornography. If you think it's not a problem in this area, you are unfortunately sadly mistaken. We will also list sex offenders by town, itemizing the charges against them, in future articles.

Thanks again for all the kind words and have a wonderful 2009!