Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Huntsville Mediation: There Goes the Judge...

A longtime reader sent us a link to a site entitled Huntsville Mediation: Judge Jimmy Sandlin. On this site, our former Lauderdale Family Court judge identifies himself as a member of the Madison County Bar Association. Earlier, we had commented on a report that Sandlin was moving south; apparently it was only slightly to the south and much more to the east.

Scan to the bottom of the page and you'll see a list of towns, complete with various zip codes, that Sandlin serves. Looking at the zip 35631, we have to wonder how many divorces and custody suits are being filed by downtown Florence post office boxes. Since we don't see 35633, we infer things are pretty peaceable in Central, Cloverdale, Underwood, and Petersville...or perhaps these citizens are just deemed to have fewer funds for divorce arbitration.

A word to the wise: Simple divorces in which no children are affected can be had for as little as $300.00...and you don't even have to drive to Huntsville. As for less amicable divorces? We're eager to see what happens when Judge Jimmy Sandlin encounters his first knock down, drag out meeting of spouses at which he has no power to threaten jail time. He just may reconsider his new career.


Time for a quiz: She was an elderly, uneducated lady who needed a job and a home. Taking a job as a caretaker, she put a roof over her head, but little else. She didn't even have indoor plumbing. Who was she? Was she abused by her employer, or was she simply getting what she deserved because she was ill-educated and had no retirement income?

The last time we checked even jails and prisons had indoor showers, sinks, and toilets. What kind of employer lets someone live like this? Tomorrow the answer.


Monday, May 30, 2011

SP4 Don Leslie Michael (1947-1967)

Don Leslie Michael was 19 when he died in Vietnam. Did he have time to think before he saved his entire squad by taking out the enemy bunker that had them pinned down, sacrificing himself in the process? We'll never know the answer to that question. We do know his actions posthumously won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

While those who fought to have the Patton Bridge named in his honor didn't succeed, there are many memorials to the Lexington High School graduate located throughout Florence and the eastern end of Lauderdale County. We frequently see his photograph posted on various sites, always wearing his uniform. For that very reason, we wanted to publish another image of Don--his senior portrait from Lexington depicting him as he looked during what should have been a carefree time.

A year later, he died thousands of miles away from home. He died for our freedom, or at least what the powers that be said could determine our freedom in future years. Forty-four years later we still enjoy that freedom, whether thankful or not for the sacrifices of those like Don who died in service to our country.

Today is Memorial Day 2011. Let's not forget Don Leslie Michael or those like him who made the supreme sacrifice.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Maj. Barry Keith Henderson (1950-1990)

Brandon & John Henderson

On October 6, 1990, Maj. Barry Keith Henderson turned 40. Two days later, he was dead--killed when the jet he was piloting on a training mission crashed in the Persian Gulf.

Maj. Henderson was born in Moulton, but had lived in Tuscumbia for several years. A chemical engineer with TVA, Henderson was also a member of the Alabama Air National Guard. He volunteered to serve in the first Gulf War and was one of only a handful of casualties from Alabama.

Henderson left behind his parents, a wife, one brother, and two sons. His funeral was held October 16, 1990, at Woodward Avenue Baptist Church with interment at Oakwood Cemetery in Tuscumbia. Speaking at his brother's funeral, Lamar Henderson said, "I cannot praise him enough, nor can I honor him enough."

This Memorial Day, let's all honor Maj. Barry Keith Henderson, as well as all those from this area who have given their lives in military service. They deserve no less.

Related post: Lionel Terry


Saturday, May 28, 2011

1st Lt. Robert Burton LeCates (1945-1971)

It was forty years ago that Robert Burton LeCates died in a country few had ever heard of when he was growing up in Florence. Bob, as his family and friends called him, was a graduate of Kilby Training School, Appleby Junior High School, Coffee High School, and Florence State College. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant upon his graduation from college and married Martha Paulette Smith in 1968.

By 1971, the war in Vietnam was supposedly winding down, but that fact offered no immunity for those who still served there. On Wednesday May 26, 1971, the Army listed the 25 year-old LeCates as missing in action since May 21st. The next day the Defense Department changed his status to killed in action.

Besides his wife, he left behind his parents, three grandparents, and two siblings--plus countless others whose lives he had touched. His funeral was conducted on June 3, 1971, at Jackson Heights Church of Christ followed by interment at Oakwood Cemetery in Sheffield.

Now forty years later, almost to a day, do we still remember 1st Lt. Robert Burton LeCates? If not, we should. This Memorial Day, let's make it a point to take time out from our holiday activities to remember Lt. LeCates...and all those who gave their lives that freedom might live.

Related post: Sammy Coker


Friday, May 27, 2011

What's Wrong at the Colbert County Animal Shelter?

From 2003 until 2009, Tommy Morson received mainly rave reviews for his management of the Colbert County Animal Shelter. Then in 2009, a local veterinarian brought a suit against the shelter and challenged the manner in which the facility performs euthanasia. Morson has been vocal in his advocacy of the gas chamber, a method used now in only a handful of Alabama shelters. Director Morson feels a more personal method of ending the lives of stray animals would take too great a toll on shelter workers. This point may soon become moot if the state continues down its current path and outlaws such methods in toto.

While this debate is ongoing, Morson now faces stronger charges. According to reports from last week's Colbert County Animal Control Association meeting, at least one employee and one volunteer have accused Morson of various forms of sexual harassment. A second employee presented copies of e-mails in which Director Tommy Morson apparently corresponded with an escort service in another city, arranging for its services while on a shelter related trip.

So far, the Association has taken no steps to discipline Morson. Our sources say the investigation is ongoing, and more details will be published as they become available. We commend Mr. Morson for his past dedication to area animals; however, a hostile work environment is not one that draws either volunteers or capable employees. We hope this is resolved quickly.


Be sure to visit the I Love Sheffield site to view a great film to video of the Giant Santa that once stood guard over North Montgomery Avenue.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Colbert County Animal Shelter

April 12, 1997, was a red-letter day for Colbert County. After many years of leasing a dilapidated structure from the Colbert County Humane Society, the new county animal shelter officially opened its doors. The shelter is overseen by the Colbert County Animal Control Association whose membership consists of one representative each from Sheffield, Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals, and Colbert County.

The Colbert facility's first director was Jamiel Jordan Cantrell. By November 2000, Cantrell had been suspended and was suspected of misuse of funds that totaled almost 40K. The Association was forced to borrow 30K in order to meet the shelter's financial obligations. Cantrell and his wife Alicia Wisdom Cantrell were later arrested on theft charges unrelated to the missing shelter funds.

Two individuals applied to replace Cantrell--Tommy Morson, a former director of the Florence Animal Shelter, and Elaine Bray of Muscle Shoals, a long time shelter employee. The Association chose Bray, who was also heavily involved in animal rescue. Bray remained as director for three years, but the continual euthanasia of unwanted dogs and cats took its toll. The Colbert shelter routinely puts down as many as 400 animals per month, and Bray decided her love for the job did not outweigh the emotional hardship caused by the mass euthanasia.

In 2003, the Association hired Thomas Bruce Morson Sr. as full time director of the shelter. Morson, then 65, had resigned from his position with Florence in 1999 after 14 years on the job, but had later decided he was ill-suited for retirment.

The Animal Control Association felt lucky to have recruited Morson, who was a past president of the Alabama Humane Society, the Alabama Animal Control Association, and the Southeastern Animal Control Association. Co-workers commended Morson for taking the helm of the under-funded shelter, and complaints were few...until 2009.

To be continued...


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

As Others See Us...

Is living in Tornado Alley any worse than living in a certain western state prone to earthquakes and forest fires? Is it worse than living below sea level in Louisiana? We think not...but we do like to see both sides of the coin before we totally disagree with one or the other. In that spirit, here's a link to an extremely interesting article that may sway some opinion, or at least lead many to suggest a certain Alabama senator learn to tone down his rhetoric:


Fallout from last month's tornadoes continues. Did the town of Littleville lose the key to its community storm shelter? Two e-mails to us have indicated as much. Calls to the town directed us to several individuals--none of whom had the knowledge or authority to comment on the situation.

Did the Phil Campbell Fire Department use illegal Mexican labor to repair its roof? That question involves several facets, and we can comment on the issue without even calling the fire chief who was named in the e-mail.

The town of Phil Campbell in all probability contracted with a roofing firm, not knowing if it employed Caucasian snake handlers, black voodoo queens, or Mexican hat dancers. It is the responsibility of the roofing company to ensure each employee's paperwork is in order (read: not forged).

As for the workers being Mexican, we may assume they were Hispanic, but they could have been Guatemalan or any other nationality from below the border. If they are illegal, what should be done? Illegal is illegal; they should be deported. We don't see the ICE making very much effort to do its job unless the said illegal immigrants are convicted of violent crimes. If you have an answer please contact us. We'll be happy to publish your thoughts and replies.


The Connection has published it's third installment on recent events at the Colbert County Animal Shelter. We look forward to the next installment of this erotic soap opera; however, we don't think we'll be stepping on any toes if tomorrow we publish some background on the shelter and its current director Tommy Morson...


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Eddie Chandler Claims Innocence/Willie Lyons Resigns

As predicted, Eddie Frank Chandler made his first court appearance yesterday. What was not predicted was his avowal of innocence. Arrest? Yes. Confession? Apparently not...

What are the odds Chandler acted alone in the 1994 murder of Chris Stanback? This is what one reader wrote:

Ok.....what I am trying to figure out is how did one young boy do all of that to someone alone? I was supposed to meet Chris the day he disappeared and I called his home and Rudy told me he left in a car with some white guys and he would be right back......what happened to all that info because it sure is different now.

As stated before, the trial may provide more twists than a Patricia Cornwell novel.


According to an article in The Connection, Community Corrections Director Willie Lyons has resigned from the position he assumed in 2009.

Related post: Lauderdale County Work Release


Any, ahem, matchbook collectors out there? Here's one from D. B. Reid's Texaco in Tuscumbia: Link


Monday, May 23, 2011

Is Tammy Happy?

Who really sabotaged Lynn Greer's plan to keep both Lauderdale and Colbert Counties in District Five? According to another local political pundit, Morgan county may be taking the blame based strictly on smoke and mirrors:

Thoughts on the Redistricting Committee's Decision to Separate Colbert & Lauderdale Counties

Dino has much inside Montgomery info to which we aren't privy. What would Tammy L. Irons gain in her race to become governor? Or in some other venue, for that matter? Obviously this could mean a tremendous boost to any higher political aspirations of Roger Bedford. Perhaps it's a little bit of quid pro quo?

We invite reader comments.


The state of education at UNA? We were happy to read of ongoing renovations to Bibb Graves Hall on the UNA campus, but a little mystified by a comment from UNA's Michael Gautney. In his description of improvements to the administration building, Gautney felt the need to tell us what an air lock is. Since he deals with a pedantic crowd on a daily basis, we have to wonder just how much the vocabulary of both students and those who profess to teach them has diminished in the past few decades.


Interested in buying stock in local companies? We doubt you would find this 1919 stock certificate on NASDAC, but it certainly has historical value.

You can bid on eBay until May 29th:

Dr. Stutts Eas-It Chemical Co.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Who Are the Johnson Brothers?

Alfred Shawn Johnson would have been 29 when he allegedly murdered Keith Barnett in the summer of 2000; his brother Shannon Ray Johnson would have been 30. Now both are in jail on charges of large scale prescription drug fraud, along with more than 20 others. Which one of these co-conspirators reported the Johnsons? It will be interesting to see which of these other defendants gets the sweetheart plea deal.

Reportedly, the Johnsons have at least posed as legitimate businessmen, owning a sporting goods store in Petersville. Yet, both have extensive records. Sources say their arraignment will be Monday, but that should not provide much new information. Perhaps the main question doesn't involve their trials for the drug and felony murder charges, but in their sentencing should they be found guilty. As habitual offenders convicted of a violent crime, they could be sentenced to Life Without Parole. It seems appropriate.


Sources in Sheffield say there are still non-functioning tornado warning sirens in place. Considering the magnitude of the April 27th tornadoes, it would seem imperative to have them repaired before the start of bad weather season in the fall. If you live near one that does not function or does not function properly, please report them to the Colbert County EMA. If you have done so and have received no satisfaction there, report them to the Colbert County Commission. Not only do you pay taxes for these, there are often Federal grants in place to help with the cost of maintaining these sirens.


The Connection has published Part II in its ongoing report of misconduct at the Colbert County Animal Shelter:


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Two Bombshells? Maybe it is the Rapture...

Okay, we need to pull our tongue out of our cheek and be serious. Friday offered two major bombshells--one in Lauderdale County and one in Colbert County. First we'll tackle the Lauderdale announcement of an indictment in the 1994 slaying of Christopher Stanback.

We first mentioned the rumored confession in Chris' murder on March 30, or roughly 50 days ago. Why the delay in the announcement? Obviously Lauderdale District Attorney Chris Connolly could not be certain an indictment would be forthcoming. Were there other reasons? We have no answer to this question, but since Eddie Frank Chandler was the only suspect indicted, we seriously doubt that others will be charged in this case.

The trial, assuming Chandler doesn't plead, will be the stuff of which novels are written. Let's hope it brings closure to the Stanback family.


Did you read this story in The Connection?


If these allegations prove to be true, a major investigation and quite probably legal proceedings would be in order. Why do so many, from presidents to governors to judges to sheriffs to dog catchers fail to realize that our tax dollars are not their personal bankroll to support or employ their current romantic flings? We work hard for our money, and most of us are happy to pay taxes to support animal welfare...that's welfare, not lust.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Special Report: Eddie Frank Chandler Indicted in Chris Stanback Murder

Eddie Frank Chandler (Eddie Haskell in our recent blog) has been indicted for the 1994 murder of Chris Stanback. Did he do it? As D.K. says, "Justice for all, even the victims."

How Poor Are Our Legislators: Greg Burdine

Greg Burdine is the Democratic Representative for District I, Lauderdale County. Could Rep. Burdine afford to give up 15% of his salary?

* Burdine has been a practicing attorney since 1989 and is a partner in a well-known Florence firm.

* Burdine is married and has children living at home.

Of the politicians we have profiled so far, Rep. Burdine may be the least financially able to return 15% of his state salary; however, it's hardly a given that he would suffer if he chose to do so.

Related posts:

Roger Bedford

Marcel Black

Tammy Irons


We're Getting a Divorce

The above map shows U.S. Districts 4 and 5 in Alabama. Now the results of the 2010 census require that these districts be redrawn. Alas, Lauderdale and Colbert Counties will no longer be in the same district. How will this affect us?

Lauderdale will be impacted less than Colbert, a county that will arbitrarily be placed in District 4, now represented by Robert B. Aderholt. Just what do Colbert Countians know of Aderholt? Probably very little--a fact that may open the door for a new candidate in 2012. Does the name Roger Bedford ring a bell?


For those who asked:


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Colbert County Citizens Excluded from School Tax Vote

Colbert County Citizens Excluded from School Tax Vote

A Guest Commentary By

Thomas Beane

On April 19, 2011, voters in Colbert County went to the polls on the issue of the renewal of a 5-mill property tax that is earmarked for the Colbert County School System. The property tax vote occurs once every ten years and is only for Colbert County residents who do not live in Tuscumbia, Sheffield, or Muscle Shoals city limits. However, there was a problem in the election process on that day. Some Colbert County residents and property owners were excluded from being able to cast their vote including myself.

Some residents live in the county bordering city jurisdictions. The polling place for some of these residents is in locations within the adjacent city limits. For example, I live South of Tuscumbia in the county, but we vote at R.E. Thompson School or at a nearby church, as was the case in the 2008 elections. When we arrived to cast our vote supporting the school tax, the polling place was closed. All attempts to find a location to cast our vote failed. My family and I returned home, unhappy with being deprived of our voting rights.

I contacted Sen. Roger Bedford through email to ask who would be the best person to discuss the issue. He advised me to contact our mayor. I am sure that Sen. Bedford thought that I lived within the city since my address is Tuscumbia. Being a county resident, we don’t have a mayor. I decided to contact Tuscumbia’s mayor. I was unable to talk with him. I called and talked to authorities at the Colbert County Courthouse and explained the situation. The only response that I got was “that don’t seem right.”

With the catastrophic events in Alabama, the issue has probably been lost in the shuffle. The problem remains that some Colbert County voters did not get to participate in the election, so the Democratic process failed. Fortunately, the school tax passed, which provides Colbert County schools with much needed funding in these hard economic times. So the question remains - what happens the next time that there is a county-only vote? If county voters have to go to a city-polling place, then the city should not be able to decide whether we, as county residents, get to vote or not. There is a problem here that may seem small, but has very large implications.


Thanks to Thomas Beane for the above commentary. Since this election occurs only once every ten years, we can understand how there could be problems. We have two suggestions for those who have had issues or anticipate problems in similar elections:

1. Contact Sen. Bedford again, perhaps including a copy of this blog. We do not always agree with the good senator's politics, but we do believe he supports local schools and would endeavor to prevent a similar incident in the future.

2. In future elections, go to the nearest open polling place and cast a provisional ballot. It should be recorded in the final count.


Note: A reader noticed our ad for Mini Motors in Muscle Shoals and gave them a try. This is what he told us:

Great service!!!! Friendly people. Good selection of parts. Really know their small engine stuff. Will continue to use.

If your lawn and weeds are growing like ours after all the rain, be sure to visit Gene and our friends at Mini Motors for any needed repairs or new equipment. We would not consider running their advertisements if we didn't think them the best in the area. Tell them Shoalanda sent you!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Michael H. Stanfield & Virginia Jacks

Michael H. Stanfield of Florence and Virginia Foxworth Jacks never met, yet their lives became intertwined in a way neither could have imagined on the night of September 18th last year. Auburn police say Standfield, whose age has been listed as either 42 or 47, caused the accident that claimed the life of Jacks, 17. Both were reportedly in the city for the Auburn-Clemson game. From a Lee County news report:

Auburn police are trying to track down the driver who caused a Saturday wreck on Shug Jordan Parkway that killed 17-year-old Virginia Foxworth Jacks of Montgomery. The male driver came up the ramp to the parkway, turned left into oncoming traffic, forcing the car Jacks was riding in to swerve, spin out of control and be T-boned by another vehicle, police said. Auburn's police chief said on Tuesday (9/21) that investigators were tracking down the driver in another Alabama city where he lives.

Stanfield maintains that he was unaware of any accident and that his passengers will testify to that fact. After being indicted by a Lee County grand jury, Stanfield turned himself in and remains in Lee County Jail with bond set at 35K. The indictments charge the Florence man with vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident without giving aid, and improper turn. It's likely these charges will be reduced if Standfield should decide to accept a plea.

Should Michael H. Stanfield have been indicted? He was driving in what was probably an unfamiliar area. Witnesses state he had been attempting to make the left turn for some time; however, they also state that the vehicle in which Jacks was a passenger was not speeding. We cannot recall a case in which a driver was charged for such a crime while not involved in the physical accident itself. It will be interesting to follow this case to its conclusion.


Virginia Jacks was obviously a vibrant and caring young woman. Her death is a loss not only to her family, but the entire Montgomery community.

Several sites have been inaugurated to commemorate her life and death. Here are two of them:

In Memory of Virgina Jacks

Virginia Jacks, 1993-2010


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Weeden Home/Naylor Sentenced

The Weeden Home

A Guest Commentary By

Bailey Quarters

If you ask me where I grew up, I would proudly say North Florence. I feel most who grew up in East Florence or Weeden Hts. would feel likewise. It was only a few months ago that the former superintendent of Florence City Schools wanted to change the name of Weeden School to Singing River. Why? She felt the name Weeden had become tainted in some way. I doubt that most people felt the same.

I see and hear that many people who grew up in the Shoals have never heard of Sweetwater Mansion. I believe most of these people have heard of the Weeden Home. I'm guessing the owner who lives in Atlanta or those who have control of it feel that Sweetwater sounds more elegant. Maybe it does, but it's still the Weeden Home to most of us who have grown up here.

I also notice that those organizing events at the former plantation have gone from charging $25.00 to $10.00 to asking for donations. That tells me most of the people who want to see "Sweetwater" have and won't be visitng a second time. How many more would come if it was advertised as the "Weeden Home?"

If their goal was to open a bed and breakfast by June this year, they aren't going to make it. They need help, and I feel advertising the property as the Weeden Home is a step in the right direction. Another thing that would help would be for them to make their finances public. I work hard for every penny I make and I would like to make sure the money those women collect is going where they say it is. I bet most people feel the same. They should think about it.


Jason Bart Naylor has been sentenced to 25 years for the rape of a family member. He still faces an autumn trial for the rape of a second family member. Is there not a box for the jurors to tick that says "Under the Jail?"

Related posts:

Preying on His Own Family


Naylor Down South


Now, to our famous puzzle. The origin of the puzzle was known to us; it came from a trusted friend via a second trusted friend, but we didn't know what the box contained until we opened it. It was rather like Christmas in April.

We still haven't completed the dinosaur, but when we do, we'll publish a photo of the finished product--a product you as Alabama taxpayers helped pay for. Yes, the wonderful puzzle came from the production line of the National Alabama Corp. We understand these puzzles were practice for future work on rail cars--if any contracts ever come in.

Most of the puzzles were given to children of employees. We intend to keep ours for it is a remarkable piece of work. It is only a pity that it is all we have to show for almost one billion dollars.


Monday, May 16, 2011

It's 8:00 a.m. Do You Know Where Your State Legislator Is?

Have you tried to contact your state senator or representative recently? We just read that the TimesDaily was unsuccessful in getting Sen. Tammy Irons to return its phone calls. In fairness, when she has been contacted by our J.J. Ray, she replied one out of the two times; however, the one time contacted by Shoalanda she did not reply.

However, it does seem when presented with what a constituent sees as a problem, the pat answer by most legislators is that the law needs to be changed and he or she will look into it. Not always does the law need to be changed. The Putative Father Registry is a prime example; if you don't know that you're a father 30 days after the birth of a child (military personnel excepted), you're nothing more than a sperm donor.


Some recent reader comments:

On the TimesDaily not including the website address in its article on the World Fishing Network contest, a reader writes:
"We'll have to think of a new name for the TD now, it's more than just the daily disappointment."

On our blog concerning hiring practices of the Lauderdale County Commission:
I'm wondering if the piece on the Lauderdale County Commission isn't too.....'inflammatory'? Is 'Shoalanda' seeking to initiate change and reform or to anger the 'target' of the article? Is a more diplomatic approach called for?

We'll state here that we usually have the utmost respect for the commission; yet, they don't always act in the best interests of those they are elected to serve. Nevertheless, point is taken and apologies offered if the commission was offended by the tone of the blog. We stand by our position that the bar is usually set much too low for courthouse employees.

On our puzzle: When do you tell us what the puzzle is, where it came from, and weren't you afraid to open the box?

Stay tuned tomorrow for the rest of the story....


Now a fantastic video from Kerry Gilbert and the KGB. Kerry is much like Visa. You can find him many places, but never at a certain local scam.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Have a GED? You've Got the Job!

Education. We don't obtain all, or perhaps even most, of our education sitting in a classroom. Mo Berg said reading seven newspapers a day would soon provide one with the equivalent of a college degree. Nevertheless, our society as a whole preaches education and more education. Except...in Alabama. Except...in Lauderdale County.

Here's a current job description for a property appraisal clerk:

Property Appraisal Clerk

High School Diploma or GED equivalency required. Requires working knowledge of general office skills and equipment operation sufficient to handle a variety of duties. Compiles data on new construction. Requires good typing skills, math skills, and computer skills. Uses applicable laws, guidelines, and department procedures, Employee performs various appraisal calculations on real property and other personal property. Prepares property record cards and maps. Answers telephone, greets visitors, provides information and assistance. Application deadline is May 18, 2011.

Ah, but you say experience can and does make up for formal education. Yes, indeed, but we don't see any reference to experience in the job description. Let's cut to the chase--the person who brought this to our attention says the Lauderdale County Commission doesn't require advanced degrees for any courthouse positions in order to facilitate hiring of friends and relatives. Surely not! Here in Lauderdale County?

If that were true, wouldn't it encourage the county's young college graduates to move to other areas? That would be like saying if you sent the commissioners a letter on a subject of importance to the citizens, they wouldn't bother to answer...oh, right, they don't.


An update on the World Fishing Network contest: Florence is now 10th out of 20 cities, with just over 16 days left to vote. It's not about size apparently, since Denver, Colorado, is in last place. The winning city will receive 25K and quite a bit of advertising; right now it doesn't look like Florence will come in first...unless you begin to VOTE.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Mysterious Box: It's Puzzling

We received a box; should we shake it or soak it in water? Let's go with shaking it. It rattles. So far, so good. Do we dare open it? Why not...

It must be broken--it's all in pieces, very heavy pieces. Some of the pieces look dangerous...what should we do? Hmmm, it's a puzzle...what should we do?

Perhaps we can determine more about the gift if we put the pieces together. Could it be a puzzle in more ways than one? Let's see...


After five minutes...all right, fifteen, we seem to have something. It indeed was a puzzle--still is partially puzzling. Here's where we are so far:

We're not sure how long it will take us to finish, so we'll stop at this point. Obviously, it's some kind of dinosaur, but where did it come from?

Since our theme today is puzzles, we'll let you wait on that answer...just rest assured that many of your tax dollars were involved.


Our fellow blogger C.R. has taken flack for his opinion of Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May's actions during the recent tornado outbreak. Here's his retort:

When I am told something I always try to confirm the story with two different sources. The Ronnie May story was confirmed with sources inside the Sheriff's office and the state.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Update on Sheffield Post Office/Fiddlin' Willie

Note: Blogger was down for 24 hours for purposes of posting; also, Thursday's posts were temporarily deleted. Blogger has now corrected this problem.

Yesterday we blogged concerning the imminent closing of the Sheffield Post Office. These are the facts as we now have them:

1. All sorting and mail delivery is moving to the Tuscumbia location.

2. The majority of counter personnel will be moved to other locations.

3. (Anticipated/projected) All post office boxes will remain open for an unknown period of time; however, the retail/customer service counter will close.

Apparently, items one and two are already taking place. Item three is in the works for a later date to enable Sheffield patrons to acclimate to visiting the Tuscumbia or other local post offices. Is there anything we can do? We have received several responses stating that nothing will deter this USPS plan. Again, we do encourage readers to contact Rep. Mo Brooks.


Fiddlin' Willie

A Guest Commentary By

William Rogers

A somewhat accurate comparison can be made between Sheriff Ronnie Willis and Roman emperor Nero. Nero is alleged to have been so far removed from the needs of Rome that while Rome was engulfed in flames, its ruler fiddled.

Sheriff Ronnie Willis is so caught up in chasing his tail...and frequently stepping on it...that he is totally oblivious to the downward spiral his department is caught in. Sheriff Willis has lost all credibility among local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and cannot see it. Instead of efficiently running his department and commanding respect from his officers, he has resorted to constant 'little man' tirades where he berates and belittles them.

'Rome' is burning and Willie is fiddlin'....


Thanks to Mr. Rogers for what we hope is the first of many guest blogs. Please feel free to send in any guest commentaries or rebuttals.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sheffield Post Office to Close?

We were forwarded an e-mail late last night in which the author stated the Sheffield Post Office would be soon closing. If this is true, and considering the extremely credible source, we believe it is, the effects on Sheffield could be devastating. Why Sheffield?

The Florence Post Office is similarly large and hardly built for easy entrance and egress, so we must infer the facility isn't being used as much as the powers that be in Washington feel it should. It may already be too late, but we suggest if you live or work in Sheffield that you attempt to route all mail through the Sheffield facility. Outgoing letter/package count is a factor in many closings, but not always the decisive one. Also, contact Rep. Mo Brooks; he seems truly willing to help this area, so now's his chance.

The Sheffield Post Office was constructed in 1930 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Should the post office be closed, the building could be purchased and preserved; however, given today's economic climate, that is not assured. Let's all work to help Sheffield and its citizens preserve it.

Photo of Sheffield Post Office by Jimmy Emerson.


The Shoals area has lost a valuable asset in the passing of Frank V. Potts. We never knew anyone who had met Mr. Potts who didn't comment on his humor, as well as his sense of fair play. Our sincerest sympathy to his family. The world is greatly diminished by his loss.


Important Announcement: Those of you who are regular readers know that we happily post guest blogs and editorials, especially rebuttals. Indeed we have begged for such from time to time. This is a political blog and reflects the political opinion of its writers. We currently have four regular members and the opinion of one is not necessarily the opinion of all. Two of our writers reside in Colbert County and, again if you are a regular reader, you know that the opinion of one is usually not the opinion of the other.

Yesterday we published a column by C.R. that commented on recent events concerning Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May. Sheriff May disagreed with this account, but instead of contacting us, he chose to contact another Internet site to relate his version of recent events in Franklin and Marion Counties. (We endorsed his opponent in the last election.) This is his prerogative; however, we hope that Sheriff May will still contact us and we will be happy to publish his account in its entirety.

Our only restriction on guest blogs is that they do not promote abusive or violent behavior. If you wish to champion the Whig Party, Pastafarianism, or Esperanza, this is your place; however, similarly you may expect rabid opposition from other readers. That, after all, is what political debate is all about.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Full Moon for Sheriffs?

We recently blogged about an anonymous North Alabama sheriff who refused mutual aid to a neighboring county during the aftermath of the tornado outbreak. Now C.R. presents a similar story from Colbert:

Just a couple of weeks ago, tornadoes ripped through Marion, Franklin, and Lawrence Counties. The images from that devastating day will never be forgotten. After the tornadoes destroyed entire city blocks several law enforcement agencies in the affected counties called for all available law enforcement assistance. One local law enforcement agency failed to quickly respond to the repeated cries for help.

For an unknown reason the Colbert County Sheriff’s Department failed for several hours to respond to the calls of mutual aid. During the last election an issue came out that the Sheriff is very hands off and stays in the office. It appears that this is still a problem. Sheriff May did not comprehend the severity of the situation and failed to lead when called upon to do so.

After finally responding to the calls for help, the Sheriff has now put a stop to any Colbert County Deputies working in the tornado affected areas. The deputies are paid overtime by FEMA. There are currently police officers from Orange Beach AL. working in the affected areas.

It is a very sad day when a police department from the Mobile area can help our local community and the Colbert County Sheriff’s Department refuses to. This is no way a deputy problem. Every deputy wants to go and help but the Sheriff told the deputies to stand down.

I hope and pray that if Colbert County ever needs help, that the people responding from other areas will take into account the decision was made by the Sheriff and not the citizens of Colbert County.


Great news...or perhaps it's only grate. It seems National Alabama Corp. has a new contract. Unfortunately it's not for rail cars, but for ironwork for Lowe's Home Improvement Centers. It's thought that the contract is for 1K pieces of gates and similar iron items. Well...they have to start somewhere.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Mignon Has Returned & Other Oddities

From C.R.:

The Mignon Has Returned

I believe the alliance between the former Cherokee City Mayor Mignon Willis and current Cherokee City Councilmembers referred to as the Burger King Four (Councilmembers Malone, Glover, Mason, and Franks) is well documented. The power was so great that a former councilmember voted to put Mignon Willis on the water board and then resigned after the vote.

Well, it appears over the last few months a fracture has occurred. During the city's bitter budget battle, sources close to the Cherokee City council reveal that the cutbacks were orchestrated by Mignon Willis. Being the good lap dogs the Burger King Four are they voted to slash money and save the city from the supposed brink of disaster. But after cutting the budget the council voted to spend over $15,000.00 on a broken down abandoned senior citizens building.

Stress Crack

The recent flip flop on the hiring of the two police officers is where the fracture started. After the huge cut back in benefits to the city employees and the cutoff of gas to the rescue squad and fire departments, one Cherokee Police Officer resigned and went to work at another Police Dept. The Cherokee City Council voted to hire one full time and one part time police officer. Mignon Willis was outraged by the hirings and demanded that the vote be rescinded. Shortly after the demand, a special called meeting was held and the city council voted to reverse their vote on the hiring of the police officers.

No Sewer for You

When Mayor Chuck Lansdell left the mayor’s seat in 2004, he had lined up a sewer grant for the city. When Mignon Willis took office she decided the grant was too expensive and decided not to pursue the sewer grant. Well, that decision has cost the City of Cherokee and the citizens that have to pay the sewer rates about $800,000.00. The sewer has fallen apart and ADEM is on the city's back to correct the problem or face fines or imprisonment. The City Council having no other recourse voted to approve a sewer grant that Mayor Lansdell secured. The new grant is about $800,000.00 more than the grant in 2004.

The Alliance Has Fallen?

Leading up to the sewer vote, Mignon Willis voiced her displeasure with the grant and told the Burger King Four to vote against the grant. Facing fines or imprisonment the council voted to approve the sewer grant. Being the vindictive person that everyone but the Burger King Four can see, Cherokee Water Board Member Mignon Willis proposed an increase of the transaction fee that the city pays the water department to collect the sewer fees. The city currently pays the water department $250.00 a month to collect the sewer fees.

The proposal that Mignon Willis got passed will increase the fee to $1500.00 a month. Who will pay this increase? The city will have to pass on the extra cost and the citizens of Cherokee will. When the sewer rates increase everyone should thank Mignon Willis for it. The Cherokee Water Board Members that voted for the increase are Mignon Willis, Chairman Puckett, and Mr. Bozeman. All eyes will be on Councilmembers Malone, Glover, Mason, and Franks. Will the Burger King Four stay in the alliance with their puppet master or will they fight this increase and try to save the Cherokee Citizens some money?


Debbie Wilson has asked us to announce the second phase of the "America's Favorite Fishing City" contest has begun. Florence is among 20 towns vying for the first prize of 25K. The contest will end in three weeks--you may vote four times a day.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Pictures of Hope

Ten days after the devastating tornadoes, the hardest hit counties are just beginning to rebuild. Where do they start? Sometimes a small item can be of monumental importance. A high school diploma may have no monetary value, but it's priceless to its owner. Here's a link to a Facebook site featuring over 3.5K photos and documents. Let's hope each featured item can be returned to its owner.

Pictures and Documents from the 4/27 Tornado


Sadly not only documents were separated from their owners, so were hundreds of pets. If you are missing a four-legged family member or have found a well cared for dog or cat, here's the site to reunite these little ones with those who love and cherish them. Currently there are over 400 animals listed. Pictured above is a small dog found in Franklin County.

Animals Lost & Found During 4/27 Tornado


Most importantly, continue to remember the victims in your prayers.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Questions...More Answers

A faithful reader writes: Did you get the pictures of the "Shoals Eyesore" that I sent?

Yes, we did, and we are today adding a parcel that is believed to belong to Sanderson Trucking. This lot contains Sanderson trailers, bags, bundles, and we feel sure a kitchen sink in there somewhere. Traveling east from the Hwy 43/Hwy 20 intersection, turn left onto Wilson Dam Road and the Sanderson lot is the second on the left. Not a very pretty picture for a well-traveled Tuscumbia road.

Another reader writes: Do you know who's running for Probate Judge and Commission Chair in Lauderdale County?

No, we do not, but we would like to. May we suggest William Smith or Robert Smith for the former and Brad Holmes or Quinton Hanson for the latter. If anyone has made the decision to throw his hat or her chapeau into the ring, please contact us. We're hoping that should a new probate judge be in the county's future, he or she will have one of those, what do you call it? Oh, yes, a law degree...

(Congratulations to Brad & Sara Holmes on their new addition!)

From another regular reader: I've worked in Lauderdale County law enforcement for many years and all the women I ever worked with looked like the lovely Miss Wanda Fribbish. Do you have a photo of Nancy Sartain, Ronnie Willis's new assistant?

Why, yes. We just happen to have one taken from Nancy Hammond Sartain's Facebook page:


Happy Mother's Day to all human/cat/dog/lizard/etc. moms out there!


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Is Jon Thomas Wallis a Stalker?

Earlier this week we published a blog concerning Jon Thomas Wallis; Wallis was recently arrested and charged with the attempted murder of his wife Tania Marie. At that time Florence Police noted the 31 year-old Wallis had previously been charged with stalking--he also has pending drug trafficking charges.

A friend of Wallis has asked us to look further into the events leading up to the shooting of Tania Wallis. This friend, who was out of the country at the time of Wallis' stalking arrest, also seemed to believe Wallis had been found not guilty of these charges. So, just what is the truth surrounding the two events? We certainly don't have the entire story on either charge, but we can fill in some of the blanks for Wallis' friend.

Early on Monday morning September 7, 2009, Wallis was in a Florence bar where he had a documented altercation with another man. During the next few days, Wallis was accused of attempting to find the man, threatening two separate individuals, and going so far as to break into a mutual friend's home to find information on the man's whereabouts.

Florence Police arrested Jon Thomas Wallis for stalking, making terrorist threats, and burglary. Was he found not guilty? No, it seems for whatever reason, a grand jury did not indict Wallis. According to legal sources, the grand jury could have considered that all testimony came from friends of the alleged victim, or that possibly the investigating officer was unable to testify for whatever reason. This in itself proves Wallis neither innocent nor guilty.

What of Wallis' wife? According to a local paramedic, even though Mrs. Wallis sustained severe head injuries, the weather on April 27th prevented her being transported to the NICU at Huntsville Hospital. After treatment at ECM, Mrs. Wallis is apparently improving rapidly. The same source feels she has probably already spoken with Florence Police concerning the shooting.

We certainly feel for Wallis' friend in this situation, but our first concern here has always been and always will be the brutal violence against the innocent. If Wallis himself is innocent in this crime, we hope he is cleared of all charges.


We have been informed that one EEOC complaint against Lauderdale County Sheriff Ronnie Willis is pending. The complainant will likely charge age discrimination. We know neither the name nor the age of the employee filing the charges, but Willis' new administrative assistant Nancy Sartain is said to be 42. A Rogersville resident, Mrs. Sartain had been with the Lauderdale Sheriff's office less than one year when she was hired earlier this month to replace the retiring Betty Hooks.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Tornado Scams/Who's a Professional?

Several readers have reported scams or possible scams involving tornado relief. Since we do not have first hand information concerning the actual scammers, we won't publish names here. We will remind our readers to always donate supplies to authorized collection sites and money to either the Red Cross or various churches located across the valley. Sadly, tragedy seems to bring out those who see an opportunity to make some quick cash.

If you suspect someone of conducting a scam, please report them to the district attorney of the county in which they are operating. Odds are the authorities are already aware of the person or persons, and your complaint will hasten the dodger's arrest.


In case you can't read the small print under G.H.O.S.T.'s phone number, it reads:

The South's Only Professional Paranormal Investigative Team in Alabama

That's quite an interesting statement; does it perchance mean there are teams from the North now investigating in this state...or is it just bad writing. Perhaps someone has been watching too many Ed Wood movies?

Several months ago, Joshua Murphy of Rocket City Paranormal contacted us concerning the possibility of conducting investigations at Sweetwater Mansion. At that time we supplied him with contact information for Susan Leigh Smithson, the property's owner. According to Mr. Murphy, Smithson informed his group that G.H.O.S.T. "had already set up a plan with the owner."

After recently reading G.H.O.S.T.'s blurb of being the "only professional...team in Alabama," we again contacted Mr. Murphy concerning the validity of the statement and asking him if he would like to comment--perhaps write an article for us. Here was his reply:

I appreciate that you would like to do an article on us, however, in the paranormal field, there are not many teams that are open to cooperation and unity. Well, that is what we are about and unfortunately, I am going to have to decline to write a rebuttal to their presentation of themselves as the only professional paranormal investigators in AL. There are several wonderful groups in the state of AL and they all deserve acknowledgement. I feel that if I were to write a rebuttal to their statement, I would be poking the hornets nest, so to speak, and I'd rather not.

Our sincere thanks to Mr. Murphy for his courteous reply.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Talking Turkey About Sheriff Ronnie Willis

Since before the last election, we've received several, indeed many, communications concerning Lauderdale County Sheriff Ronnie Willis. Obviously no elected official will please his entire constituency, but complaints seem to be escalating against Willis and what many deem his unfair and illegal hiring practices.

Long time office manager/administrative assistant Betty Hooks has just retired from the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Office, as have one or two others. Sheriff Willis apparently has complete control over whom is employed to replace Ms. Hooks. Nancy Sartain, someone the good sheriff finds more vocationally attractive than other more experienced applicants, has been chosen.

While we're sure Mrs. Sartain has many good points, apparently college courses are not part of them. Until her appointment as office manager, Sartain was a part time employee with only a standing of one year.
Sartain was hired by the LCSO as a clerk in the summer of 2010.

Three other applicants had over four years experience, but not all have continual experience with the LCSO. One has been with the LCSO approximately 10 years, another about six, and the third about four years. One of the three has a total of over 20 years experience working in various law enforcement and judicial clerk positions. In all, many applicants were more qualified to fill the vacancy left by Ms. Hooks' retirement. Nancy Sartain has the least experience of any applicant.

Will the scorned applicant(s) file a discrimination suit? We understand that this is still undecided. Will Nancy Sartain make a competent office manager? Many who have no official degrees have the intelligence and determination to make excellent employees--so until her probationary period of 90 days ends, we'll contend that judgment should be reserved until that time.

We will say that many in power in well run companies and agencies place personal opinion aside when hiring. It should not be a popularity contest, but a decision based on who will perform best in a very critical position.

Related post: Qualifications for Ronnie Willis' Administrative Assistant


We've received two e-mails from Derek Logue, a former Sheffield resident who calls himself a sex offender advocate. Logue now resides in Cincinnati where he continues to spout his rhetoric of misunderstood child molesters. One of his emails to us was a link to his blog in which he compares himself to Charlie Sheen. We'll leave our reading audience free to make their own jokes about that.

The second email arrived via an Internet service that immediately deletes the content once it has been read. Apparently Logue has never heard of a snipping tool--he may be Charlie Sheen, but he's obviously not Bill Gates. In this correspondence Logue states he's only sorry that the recent tornadoes didn't destroy all the Shoals. We won't publish the entire contents of the email here since it contains some dubious language, but we will certainly retain it and be happy to send it to anyone having legal issues with Derek Logue.

Yes, sex offender laws need to be reformed--they need to be strengthened.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Jon Thomas Wallis: Drug Dealer/Stalker

Jon Thomas Wallis of Florence was well known to police before he allegedly shot his wife last week during a domestic dispute. Wallis, 31, claims his wife Tanya Marie Wallis, 28, shot herself in the bedroom of their Quail Run Apartment located off Chisholm Road.

In October 2010, police arrested the couple on charges of trafficking in marijuana. Authorities found drugs having a street value of $75,000.00 in their modest apartment, along with two hand guns, three rifles, and a large amount of ammunition. Wallis also has previous charges for stalking and is being charged with attempted murder.


If you've never heard our friend Kerry Gilbert and the KGB, you have a chance to remedy that May 14th. Kerry will be performing a concert to benefit tornado victims at the historic Roxy Theatre in downtown Russellville at 7:00 p.m.

Kerry is always willing to work for the Franklin County community, and this cause should be special to all of us here in Northwest Alabama. See you there.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The TimesDaily: Let's Hire/Fire Some People

We doubt that we have to tell any of our readers that things change...with great regularity. One of the most interesting (read: huh?) changes in any business are the hirings, firings, and constantly changing priorities. Since some editors of the TimesDaily have lasted only a year or so, we've certainly seen enough changes in our local rag over the years.

As soon as the Shelton family purchased the TD, its forum was divested of any regular administration or moderation. Now that the old forum has been replaced by Tennessee Valley Talks, there's an admin on site almost 24/7. Of course, he or she must be bored owing to the small number of posters who have made the move with the new software. Nevertheless, the appointment of an admin signals growth and prosperity. Or does it?

Late last week Cathy Wood announced the TD had chosen to delete her weekly column as a cost cutting measure. When any job is eliminated there will always be various theories as to the real reason. We can certainly rule out any negative comments concerning the area; Miss Wood has always been a regular Pollyanna of the published page. Could it be the powers that be see Wood as something less than the breadwinner in her family? Or...big gasp...because she writes an extracurricular blog on local activities of note?

According to Miss Wood, the TimesDaily will be "dropping some things." That means we should all be anxiously awaiting the other axe, er, shoe to fall.


Do you know a retail establishment or other business that has gone out of its way to help those left in distress by last week's storms? If so, send us the business name and we will dedicate a blog to these commercial angels. We need to patronize those who have helped the area's victims of a fickle Mother Nature.


With less than 24 hours left to vote, Florence is running 60 votes behind Richmond Hill, Georgia, as America's favorite fishing town. Richmond Hill had a population of under 7K in the 2000 census, yet it is leading our area--what a sad commentary. Assuming Florence can win round one, it will then compete in a second round to win a prize of $25,000.00. That's quite a bit of green for our area, and we encourage everyone to vote before the end of the contest tomorrow:


In the "Humor is Where You Find It" department, various news outlets have released pictures of Navy Seals as they would have appeared in the Sunday raid on Bin Laden's compound. Judging from their grab, we're surprised any shots needed to be fired. Couldn't they just have announced, "Resistance is futile. Prepare to be assimilated?"

In the end, the most wanted man in the universe died hiding behind a woman's skirts. We're only sorry there will be no marker on which to inscribe that.


Monday, May 2, 2011

"He's Dead, Jim..."

The Google map balloon asks us to write a review, so here goes:

Very effective bunker in that it hid Osama bin Laden for many years; however, it failed the ultimate test and finally allowed its occupant to be captured...dead rather than alive. We'll give it four out of five stars, but people in the free world still seem to be able to dance to it.

How do we feel in the Shoals? If we rejoice too much, are we any better than this hideous excuse for a human being who took so many innocent lives?

We have to wonder if anyone will feel secure enough to collect the reward. Perhaps Jeff Redfern?


Instead of rejoicing in Bin Laden's death, let's use our energy to thank our local troops. If you went anywhere in the Shoals this weekend, you saw the vehicles transporting troops to Franklin and Marion Counties. When they return, be sure to tell them you appreciate them...and really mean it.


Are Alabamians more trusting than most? We've been informed that physicians being investigated by the state board of medical examiners are free to take their own urine samples, seal them, and forward them to the board for testing. You probably know where this is going. Many are saying a certain Colbert County physician didn't test positive for a benzodiazepine at all, but that he simply trusted the wrong person to provide the sample he knew he could not. We're sure there will be much more to follow in the next few weeks.


In closing, we'll leave you with some words of wisdom from the greatest humorist of the last half of the Twentieth Century: I couldn't care less what some football players are taking. I want to know if my dentist is hooked up to the nitrous oxide with me. - Lewis Grizzard


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dr. Mark Ray McIlwain: A True Hero

The President has declared this a day of prayer in Alabama, and so it should be. While every Sunday should be observed as such, we who are living and have homes and families intact need to offer up extra thanks this Lord's Day and extra supplications for those who were not so lucky.

Dr. Mark R. McIlwain is a Colbert County maxillofacial/plastic surgeon; as such he was one of the first responders to the Phil Campbell area last Wednesday. Even for those experienced in such calamities, triage can be a dicey proposition and not for the faint of heart. Dr. McIlwain was faced with images he will carry with him for the rest of his life...and those whom he helped will carry his name and face in their hearts for the rest of theirs.

At this time the casualty count in Phil Campbell alone is 29, and it could still rise. Mary Carton posted one of the most moving tales we have read in her Facebook:
Dr. McIlwain was one of the first responders there. He said a Dad brought his 4 yr old for him to check on. After cleaning him up, he told him I'm sorry he's dead. The Dad carried the boy off & came back 4 more times asking him to check 1 more time to be sure.
We don't know Dr. McIlwain personally, but for this man, under extreme stress and pressure to help the living, to offer such compassion truly makes him our local hero. Thank you, Dr. McIlwain, for being with those Franklin Countians when they needed you.

Today is May Day. If you haven't yet remembered your mother or other loved ones with a May Basket of Flowers, it isn't too late to do so. This past week has brought home just how unsure our lives can be.