BIRMINGHAM, Ala., (CN) – Already embroiled in a $3.2 billion sewer debt crisis and on the brink of bankruptcy, Jefferson County now faces a class action from hospital patients who contest the county’s sweeping budget cuts, and a second lawsuit from the sheriff, who says cuts to his office will leave him unable to respond to 911 calls.
The county can no longer collect an occupational tax from city workers that brings in $78 million a year: one-fourth of the county’s annual budget. Failure to enact a bill to replace that tax, even as the sewer catastrophe unfolded, brought scorching editorials from Alabama newspapers this spring.
Now indigent hospital patients claim the county illegally converted $4.7 million from Cooper Green Hospital, which serves mostly indigent patients. The class claims that money must be used for the Jefferson County Indigent Care Fund. The County Commission also cut 90 jobs from the hospital.
In the other lawsuit, Sheriff Mike Hale protests the drastic budget cuts to his office. Hale claims the cuts will impair his legal obligation to the prisoners in the Jefferson County Jail, hinder his ability to pay deputies, and will result in insufficient funds to cover 911 calls, among other things.
Both lawsuits were filed in Jefferson County Court. The hospital patients are represented by William J. Baxley, the sheriff by Robert J. Riley, Jr.