On Tuesday, August 7, 2018 at 6:30 pm, a meeting concerning the future of the courthouse was held to in the the Clay County Courthouse with concerned citizens packing the benches of the Hugo Black courtroom.

This meeting was called by Courthouse officials to address the referendum  that will be on the Clay County ballot in the upcoming November election. This Act, SB81, was first introduced into the House by State Senator Gerald Dial which passed through Legislation to be placed on the Clay County Ballot for citizens to vote on in the November election.


By Senator Dial 

     To propose a local constitutional amendment for Clay County relating to the location of the state courts; to prohibit the removal of the state courts from the present location at the historical Clay County Courthouse.


    Section 1. The following amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, is proposed and shall become valid as a part of the Constitution when all requirements of this act are fulfilled:

   (a) The Legislature hereby finds and declares:
        (1) The Clay County Courthouse is a neoclassical revival structure that was designed by C.W. Carlton and completed and dedicated in 1906. The building is surmounted by an impressive two-story high rotunda with a domed roof and cupola that is topped with a sculpture holding the scales of justice.

      (2) The courthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 21, 1976, and was restored in 2006 with donations and grants from federal, state, and local governments.

      (3) The courthouse houses the Justice Hugo L. Black Courtroom, designated by the Clay County Commission on April 12, 1993.(b) Upon the ratification of this amendment, the state courts located in Clay County may not be moved from the present location at the historical Clay County Courthouse, provided the structure is standing and habitable.

     Section 2. An election upon the proposed amendment shall be held in accordance with Sections 284 and 284.01 of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, now appearing as Sections 284 and 284.01 of the Official Recompilation of the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, as amended, and the election laws of this state.

     Section 3. The appropriate election official shall assign a ballot number for the proposed constitutional amendment on the election ballot and shall set forth the following description of the substance or subject matter of the proposed constitutional amendment:

   “Relating to Clay County, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, prohibiting the removal of the state courts from the historical Clay County Courthouse.

  “Proposed by Act _________”This description shall be followed by the following language:
          “Yes ( ) No ( ).”

Clay County

Welcoming everyone present in the courtroom was Judge John Rochester, who was very quick to point out that this was not to be a political meeting, nor would it be used as a method to bash the County Commission. Rochester stated this was merely an opportunity to educate the public on the proposed amendment that if passed, would mean that all state courts would be always be held inside the this historic Courthouse, as long as the building remained habitable.

Judge Rochester

Rochester’s speech highlighted some brief history of the on the Courthouse, which was built on 1906 and withstood many eras in time, including the Great Depression, World War I, all the way through Afghanistan. “With every conflict going on along the way, this Courthouse has remained safe. The intent when the courthouse was built over 100 years ago was that the state court would always be held in this courtroom and I think that should always be honored. This is the people’s Courthouse. You built it, you pay for it, and you maintain it. Someone else may be designated to do those tasks, but its still yours.”

Rochester went on to say that they were very proud of the history behind the courthouse, which included the following: ” One of the largest crowds we’ve ever had was the meeting of the African-Methodist Episcopal Church Bishops and had their meeting here, with Bishops from three different states. At the times, this was unheard of, but we’re proud of it. When women first were able to vote, they came to this courthouse to do it. When African-Americans and women were first able to serve on juries, they did it here. That’s some of the history of this place and we have to protect and support it. If we’re allowed to maintain state offices here by the voting people on Nov. 6th,  then the courthouse will remain open and we will have many, many opportunities for long-term funding thru grants to protect this place. I think its important to preserve it for our future generations.”

Other who spoke on behalf of the amendment were District Judge Jim Malone Circuit Judge David Law, Talladega Probate Judge Billy Atkinson, Revenue Commissioner Ronald Robertson and Clay County Commissioner Ray Milstead, District 3 . 

Yesterday, at Monday’s County Commission meeting, Commissionershad a firm response to the unauthorized meeting, to which four of the five commissioners were not even aware of until the last minute on that Tuesday.

Commissioner Bennie Morrison opened the discussion with this statement:

 In regards to so much misinformation coming out from the meeting on the courthouse on Tuesday night. First off, I’d like to make it clear that this is my response and not a statement made by the Commission as a whole. Those of you who instigated this meeting should be ashamed of yourselves. Not once have one of you attended a commission meeting to discuss the financial issues and responsibilities going on with the courthouse. There’s a lot of misinformation going around regarding the amendment to “save the courthouse” that is going to be on the November ballot. I have a copy of  the Amendment right here and you can feel free to look at it, but  that’s not the case. There’s not anything on here about saving the courthouse. It’s an Amendment to prevent the state court from being removed from the courthouse. I think it is absolutely saddening that they would have a meeting that was centered around something that we are physically and financially responsible for with this Board of Commissioners and four of the Commissioners be excluded from that meeting.

 This county does not belong to a small “click” of people. It belongs to every taxpayer. Everybody’s got the same voice and some people need to learn to treat it like that. If anybody’s  got any questions about what’s going on and what we do out here financially,  we meet the second Monday of every month. Anybody can come to see how we do things, how we spend the county’s money, how we preserve as much of it as we can and the struggles we go through and the people we fight on a daily basis. This is not about politics, this is just a small, rural county trying to get by on a daily basis with the crumbs that fall down on a state level.  It’s despicable to me that someone would form a group and just tell virtual lies about what’s going on and spin it into something that it’s not. To my knowledge, it has never been spoken in this chamber that anyone wanted to tear down the courthouse. But if anyone knows anything about that, please inform me because I’m unaware. We’re not trying to do anything secretive here. We all got elected and we are just trying to do our job as best we can. 

Here is more from Morrison’s formal statement not discussed at the meeting: Your group may meet secretly at night, but we meet publicly each month to discuss these and other issues. And for those of you who perpetrated the blatant lie that any commissioner had ever mentioned tearing down the courthouse, you are the problem. This is not politics. This is a small rural county that is struggling to keep its head above water. When any group lies to achieve their goal, it really speaks volumes to the character of those involved. Answer me this. Why would a group of individuals violate the law in order to push their agenda. Because that is what has just happened. Their was a resolution passed to ban after hours use of the courthouse. They violated that. Not to mention violating the laws pertaining to political meetings on county property. So to put this in perspective, this group has decided they are above the laws in our county. Leaders are defined biblically as those who listen. This little group that is pushing this agenda is not a group of leaders. Leaders don’t meet in secret. We all answer to someone higher. Seems to me that some of these folks around here have forgotten that they answer to the law. If they focused more on doing the jobs they are elected to do instead of trying to exert power, we would all be better off. And for the record. Stop lying to the public and telling them there is a amendment on the ballot to save the courthouse. There is no such thing. The proposed amendment clearly states that it is to prevent to movement of the STATE court from the courthouse as long as it is.

Chairman Ricky Burney agreed with Morrison and followed with this statement: ” I first learned about the meeting at the last second.  I want to know who set this meeting up after the 4:30 mark after the courthouse was closed. I think the commission should have been asked first. There is where we are now. If any organization can have a meeting after the courthouse is closed, then I need to take a key and unlock the door for everybody else. I do not agree that just one group can have a meeting whenever they want and others cannot. I don’t care who they are, where they come from,  what color they are. In my personal opinion, these people responsible should have been arrested because it’s a violation of the law. I don’t care if you’re a judge, a lawyer, or a county commissioner. If you do it, it’s wrong. For the commission to sit back and allow this happen, what are we going to do the next time? We need to stand up and follow this law since we’re the ones who set this. I’m fine with opening the courthouse up after 4:30 too, but if we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it for everybody. Because I don’t like to be shut out when somebody else was given the opportunity to go in. We can’t back off because of who the person is, just got to do what you got to do. Another situation that really concerns me is the Hugo Black Courtroom. Now, I don’t know who named it that,  and I’ve been trying to go through the minutes to find out, and people can call it what they want to, but we need to make sure that everyone knows that this is the Clay County Courthouse. It may not matter to nobody else, but it matters to me and some of the people I represent.  Now, I want it recorded in the minutes that this is the Clay County Courthouse and not the Hugo Black Courthouse. 

Commissioner Donald Harris said he was on the Courthouse Security Committee and he wasn’t even informed about about the meeting.

County Attorney Greg Varner’s response: It is my opinion that the County Commission has control over the Courthouse. I think that the Commission has the authority to do so and I stand by that position. Several months ago, in the minutes, it is recorded that after some discussion, Commissioner Morrison made a motion for a policy prohibiting the use of the Courthouse after hours for non-court activities. This was seconded by Commissioner Greg Denney. The motion was passed unanimously. That notice of the resolution was then placed on the courthouse doors on April 9,2018.  However, Judges are allowed to have meetings pertaining to their offices. 

My suggestion going forward to move this in a positive way. I’ve always felt that the commission was put in a very difficult position. It’s very easy for us to say “save the courthouse” but you were all put in the financially figuring out how to do that. I think it’s time that all the stakeholders from the courthouse to the commissioners  to every person involved that we come together for the purpose to find a long-term solution to do this.

Editor’s note: People, please educate yourself on this amendment so that you know what you’re voting on. 

BOE Meeting Summary 8-06-18, LES Selected as Governor’s Bicentennial Schools

The Clay County Board of Education met Monday, August 6, 2018 with a relatively short agenda. The following agenda items were approved in this session:

  •  Approval to declare 3 commercial reach in freezers and 2 commercial coolers at Ashland Elementary surplus and advertise to take sealed bids on each* Bids will be opened August 29, 2018 at 10:00 AM at Central Office.
  • Approval of 17 Personnel Action items, which included some of the following:
  • Erika Laverick as Speech Language teacher
  • Summer Martin as Collaborative teacher at Lineville Elementary School
Susanne Mullinax as half time Gifted teacher for the 2018-2019 school year
Alison Todd as 1/2 Speech/Language teacher and 1/2 School Psychometrist

For Your Information:
• The next Board Meeting and FY 19 Budget Hearing will be August 30, 2018 at 4:00.
• The second FY 19 Budget Hearing will be September 6, 2018.
• The ETF (Education Trust Fund) Advancement and Technology allocation plan has been approved.

The Board will now begin the process of requesting quotes for renovating Ashland Elementary School’s boys and girl’s bathrooms and installing security doors at the entrance of Central Junior High School. Any remaining funds will be used to replace inefficient heating and cooling systems.

Congratulations to Lineville Elementary School for has been selected as Governor’s Bicentennial Schools!

Clay County Schools representatives, Superintendent Billy Walker, Dr. Charla DeLeo, Principal Tim Pilkington, and Mr. Brad Jordan honorably represented Clay County and District 3 on behalf of Lineville Elementary School, a Bicentennial School.
On August 3, 2018, Governor Kay Ivey announced the 200 Alabama Bicentennial Schools. Each school received a $2,000 grant to support a year-long project designed to strengthen connections between campuses and their communities.
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In summer 2019, the 200 schools will submit final reports on their projects, and three schools per Congressional district will be designated Alabama Bicentennial Schools of Excellence.

These 21 schools will participate in commemoration ceremonies in Montgomery on December 14, 2019, the culmination of Alabama’s bicentennial.


Ashland Restaurant Owner Faced with Multiple Felony Drug Charges

July 25, 2018

On July 23, 2018 in the early morning hours, the Ashland Police Department, along with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and Lineville Police Department, conducted a search warrant on the residence at 920 Peach Orchard Road, the house of Billy F. Campbell.

Upon entry Mr. Campbell was found and detained so that the search could commence. Once inside the home officers recovered large amounts of methamphetamine and marijuana, along with other narcotics and paraphernalia used for the processing, using, or sale of narcotics, as well as a firearm. 

Once the items were recovered Mr. Campbell was taken into custody and transported to Coosa County Jail for holding until all of the evidence was gone through. 

While searching the outside buildings of the residence, a liquor still, used in the making of illegal liquor, was found. At this point the State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) alcohol division was called in to collect the still and prepare charges for the illegal still. 

After further investigation of the house it was determined that Mr. Campbell’s business may have been involved in the illegal drug trade, and a search warrant was sought for his restaurant.

Upon approval of a judge the search warrant was executed on the Blue and White Restaurant, on AL-77, in Ashland, and more methamphetamine and marijuana was found in the restaurant, along with more paraphernalia and several firearms.

After all of the evidence was sorted and weighed official charges were filed with the Circuit Clerk of Clay County, and Mr. Campbell was arrested for the following charges:
• Trafficking Methamphetamine, a Class A Felony
• Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class D Felony
• Possession of a Controlled Substance, a Class D Felony
• Possession of Marijuana 1st Degree, a Class C Felony
• Felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class B Felony
• Felony Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, a Class B Felony
• Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Distribute, a Class B Felony
• Persons Prohibited to Possess a Firearm, a Class C Felony
• Persons Prohibited to Possess a Firearm, a Class C Felony
• Persons Prohibited to Possess a Firearm, a Class C Felony
• Persons Prohibited to Possess a Firearm, a Class C Felony
• Possession of an illegal liquor still, a Class C Felony

Below is a short list of some of the evidence that was collected from the scene:
• 163.3 g of Methamphetamine
• Approximately 1 g of Crack Cocaine
• 15.5 ounces of Marijuana
• 4 firearms

Warrants have been obtained for the arrest of Jason Campbell, Mr. Campbell’s son, but at the time of release he had not been apprehended. Contact had been made with the Drug Enforcement Agency, and they were looking into adopting the case.

Long-time Restaurant Owner Arrested in Large Drug Bust

Press Release issued on the execution of search warrants issued for long-time restaurant owner,  Billy Campbell’s home and business,  The Blue & White, in Ashland.

On July 23, 2018 the Ashland Police Department, along with the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and Lineville Police Department, conducted search warrants on the residence of 920 Peach Orchard Road, and The Blue and White Restaurant, located on AL-77 in Ashland.

Due to the amount of evidence that was collected at those scenes, the charges are still being discussed and decided upon. Once we have completed our investigations into this, and the charges have been filed we will provide more information.Chief Joseph Stanford would like to thank his Investigator Corey Dickinson, and Sergeant Micheal Harris, for their hard work in beginning this investigation, and know with their leadership this is just the beginning.

He would also like to thank Chief Shane Dunnagan, and Sheriff Ray Latham for their cooperation in the matter, because Chief Joseph Stanford knows that without support of our brothers in blue these types of operations could not happen.

Courthouse Threat Calls for Immediate Action by Commissioners


Tuesday, July 17, 2018-  During today’s planning session with the Clay County Commissioners,  an urgent matter concerning Courthouse security resulted in an emergency meeting called, with an executive session directly following.

Immediately afterward, Commissioner Bennie Morrison made this motion:” Due to recommendations from the Courthouse Security Committee and an imminent threat that has been perceived, and believed to be credible, I hearby make a move that three of the Courthouse doors be closed and locked and that an armed officer  or officers, at the discretion of the Sheriff,  be placed back at the Courthouse until at such time that this individual, or threat has been contained. Also, under this motion, we will be looking for some funding from the Circuit Judge .This motion was passed with a unanimous vote.

It is unknown at this time where the source of the threat is directed towards. Hopefully, I will have more information to pass along soon.

Ashland Police Report Another Break-in

On July 11, 2018 the Ashland Police Department was called by someone at the Clay County Extension office, stating that someone had broken into their building and offices.

Officers responded and found that one of the doors had been left unlocked sometime before and that is where the burglar had gained entry into the building.

Officers also found that one of the offices had been broken into as well. Some things were taken, and officers were looking into the matter, and it is still an ongoing investigation. Because it is still an ongoing investigation, no further comments will be made about the case. 

Back-to-back SAR Missions for CCRS

It’s been a busy Holiday week for Clay County Rescue Squad! Back-to-back search and rescue missions within a 48 hour period! Can I just take a minute and say how awesome these guys are?? Most members  are strictly volunteer too. Just another reason why Clay County is such a great place to live!

Here is a detailed account of the incident as released by Clay County Rescue Squad Missions Coordinator Brian Andrews:


CCRS was contacted for another SAR mission on July 5th, 2018. At appx. 6:30 PM, Clay County E-911 called Operations Officer Brian Andrews for 2 lost hikers that had been hiking most of the day. 2 females had gotten off trail at some point on the Cave Creek Trail. Several sets of coordinates were obtained and all were in the general area near McDill Point, but each about 1/4 mile from the other.

Brian sent a text immediately stating to not move and that CCRS members were en route and that they had their location pinpointed. Contact was maintained with them the entire time.
Several members reached staging area and headed in. Upon arriving at the latest set There was no sign of anyone and unable to make contact. The hikers were able to “share their location” with the crew in the woods via text and get updated coordinates on the spot. Again, another 1/4 mile away. This is a common issue when on the edge of a rock bluff and in heavy canopy of woods. Mainly due to satellite signals being partially blocked from one side, being on a high mountain and phones switching cell towers, and also refresh rate of the phone. Hiking further, the last set turned out to be good and the hikers were located.

Another great outcome. The hikers were uninjured, although low on water and food. They were led back out and taken to their vehicle. It was fortunate they decided to call before it got too late, being reached shortly after dark, and by dialing 911 so we could get the best information. As always, we thank everyone that helped tonight, especially 911 and our members.

Holiday Family Hike Results in Search & Rescue Mission

Press Release issued by Clay County Rescue Squad Missions Coordinator, Brian Andrews:

On Wednesday, July 4th at appx. 1:30PM, Clay County Rescue Squad Operations Officer Brian Andrews received a call from Clay County E-911 for 3 lost hikers. It was a mother and 2 children that got seperated from the rest of their party after lunch. The father had called 911 very soon after he was unable to locate. CCRS, along with Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama Fish and Game, US Forest Service, Cheaha State Park, Shinbone Valley VFD, and most importantly ALEA Aviation Unit all responded. And please don’t forget that 911 dispatchers are the true first responders by getting us the info we need and handling the situations properly to aid us from start to finish.

CCRS first went in towards McDill Point from the North which was the last known location for them. With no signs and no contact, even meeting other hikers, they came back out. At approximately 4:20PM, ALEA Aviation Unit in Montgomery was contacted for assistance. With flight time and bringing in specialized people, they were at least an hour out. They have the equipment and training to do this very well and are reserved for extreme situations. In this situation, no phone, supplies, food, or water warranted along with no known direction of travel at this point. Keep in mind their plan was to hike as a group and trail conditions altered this. CCRS sent hikers headed in from 2 different directions from the Nubbin Creek area from the South solely based on decades of experience with this area.

At around 6:30PM ALEA contacted ground units and advised they believed they had the lost hikers in sight. Clothing descriptions (primarily an orange shirt) were matched and it was certainly the hikers we were looking for. After verified, family was notified of positive ID and that we were moving in. ALEA pinpointed, gave GPS coords, and circled leading the SAR member on the ground directly in to them, which took nearly an hour more due to rugged terrain.

Once reaching the hikers, snacks and water were provided. They were led back out partially on the trail, then down the ridge back to the access road hiked in to get them. Once reaching the staging area, more food and water was waiting thanks to a couple more that showed up supporting CCRS. The family was led back to town where they could be on their way home.

Again, CCRS would like to thank all agencies and people that assisted today. This is what we do, but it’s an awesome outcome to find lost hikers, not injured hikers. That’s what we enjoy.

Ashland Family Practice Burglarized

June 27, 2018- On the above listed date the Ashland Police Department received a call from Ashland Family Practice at approximately 6:00 a.m. stating that someone had broken into the business.

Officers responded and found Dr. David Hensleigh at his office. It was determined that the suspect gained entry through an air conditioner hole in a window.

Dr. Hensleigh stated that only his office was disturbed and that several items were missing from his office including some money and drug samples.

Because the matter is still under investigation, no further comments will be made, until the case has been closed.

Sheriff’s Office Investigate Burglary/Auto Theft

On Wednesday June 13th around 3pm, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office was call to investigate a possible break-in and car theft on County Road 5, just south of Ashland. The Victims reported that their residence had been broken into and their 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer was missing.

Upon further inspection, the victims soon realized that a possible internet intrusion had occurred, along with several items taken from inside the home.

Investigators and Deputies began to piece together the facts surrounding the case and with the help of the victims, possible suspects were identified. A “Be on the Look Out” (BOLO) was issued for two individuals along with a description of the vehicle taken to surrounding agencies.

At approximately 9pm, Investigator Shanon House received a call stating two individuals fitting the suspect’s descriptions had been seen in the Sylacauga area just off U.S. 280.

When that information was relayed to Sylacauga Police, it was found Sylacauga Police were at the same time investigating a complaint of suspicious persons around the Hibbett’s Sport Store just off U.S. 280.

Upon further investigation, the suspects were identified as those reported by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office earlier in the late afternoon. Clay County Investigators arrived on the scene with Sylacauga Police and identified the persons wanted in connection with the County Road 5 burglary and car theft.

Sylacauga Police began a search of the area and found the missing 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer in an adjacent parking lot. Information gathered by Police and Sheriff’s Investigators lead them to a nearby hotel that the suspects had acquired.

Several items were recovered from the vehicle and hotel room indicating that the suspects were responsible for the County Road 5 burglary and theft. Charged was Jennifer Renee Ballard, age 40 of Minneola, Florida and Pasquale Joseph Rossetti, age 30 of Clermont, Florida. Each have been charged with Theft of Property 1st, Theft of Property 2nd, and Burglary 3rd.

Both individuals remain in the Clay County Detention Center on Bonds totaling $180,000.00. Additional charges are expected as Investigators continue to gather additional evidence on this case.

Sheriff Latham and Investigator Shanon House thanks the Sylacauga Police Department and a special thanks to Patrolman Christopher Gallops for his attention to the earlier issued BOLO and location of the suspects that evening. Without question, his attentive skills greatly aided Clay County Investigators in the arrests of suspects associated with the Theft and Burglary.