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My story, part 4


This week, I continue the timeline started in last week’s Atmore News.

October 23
I was staying with Myrna in Atmore Community Hospital as she was recovering from a broken leg.
I got a call on my cell phone from Escambia County Deputy Artur Odom. I’ve known Arthur for decades. I knew him when he was with the Atmore Police Department, then with various other law enforcement agencies. I didn’t take his call right that minute, but he left a voicemail asking me to call him back, which I did. He said he needed to talk with me and asked me where I was. I told him.
In a few minutes, Arthur and a deputy I didn’t know came to Myrna’s room and asked me if I would step out of the room, I had no idea what was going on, but I had no reason to think anything was wrong. I thought Arthur needed to talk with me – that’s what he said. I told them we could step to the waiting room at the end of the hall, and we did.
Arthur told me he had a search warrant to seize my cell phone.
Now, as you read this, I want you to think about where you are right now. And I want you to realize that a deputy can walk up to you at this moment and take your cell phone if he has a warrant to do so – and you have no recourse.
I told Arthur this was not just a personal phone, it was a business phone. Of course, that made no difference.
That evening, Don Fletcher and Ditto Gorme (both on our staff) got me set up with a temporary phone from Walmart. It was supposed to be temporary, but I still have it, even though I got my main phone back sometime later.
So, why did the Circuit / District Court of Escambia County have my phone seized and turned over to an evidence (forensics?) lab? What were they looking for? By the way, the warrant was signed by a judge, but the signature is written in a way that is indecipherable.
The warrant stated: “… said property constitutes evidence of a criminal offence under the laws of the State of Alabama or political subdivision thereof, to-wit; 36-25(a)(1) Alabama Open meetings Act.”
You probably know about the open meetings act; actually it’s a law. An elected board, commission, council, etc. cannot meet privately. All meetings must be public IF a majority is meeting, IF a quorum is present. The meeting does not have to be in person; it can be texts, emails, phone calls – and the open meetings law (the Sunshine Law) still applies.
Let me stop here to give the names of the Escambia County School Board members. Those voting to keep previous superintendent Michele McClung in her position were Danny Benjamin, Mike Edwards, and Coleman Wallace. Those opposing extending her contract were Kevin Hoomes, Cindy Jackson, Loumeek White and me.
Cindy, Loumeek and I often texted and called each other. I often texted and called just one of them, and they called and texted me. That’s not a majority and is perfectly legal. At no time did the four of us talk, email, text or meet.
However, I had heard that one of the other three board members was saying he thought we were meeting. As I say, “I had heard.” I have no proof. But I wonder if that’s where this action started.
So, my phone was seized because the court issued a search warrant to determine if I violated the law. I assume DA Steve Billy initiated the action. And it was then turned over to Sheriff Heath Jackson to carry out the warrant.
Cindy’s phone was also seized. If “they” suspected we four broke the law – and if they were trying to prove collusion – why were my phone and Cindy’s phone seized, but not Kevin’s and Loumeek’s. I’m not saying their phones should have been seized nor am I saying I wish they had been seized. I am saying it appears Cindy and I were targeted. That became more apparent as time went on.
I sent Arthur Odom several texts (on Myrna’s phone, not my new phone) to ask about my phone being returned to me.
More on the phone issue in part 5.

Closing comments on this article:

  • *We have become so dependent on our phones. If your phone is seized, it’s a bit unnerving – especially if you use yours for business purposes.
  • *God is faithful.

To be continued.