By Greg Markley
In September 2014, when the influential Local Government Health Insurance Program Board for Alabama picked Roger Rendleman as its chairman, they must have picked the right man. After all, Rendleman has earned high marks for his handling of Lee County’s finances and for the budgets of the Alternative Sentencing Board.
“A big help from the ASB is that they bridge the communication and administrative gaps that can occur between the state level responsibilities and the local level responsibilities, in criminal justice,” said Rendleman, since 2001 the Lee County Administrator. (This is the 3rd of a series of articles on Lee County’s ASB.)
He said jointly the state’s Court Referral Program under the ASB linked with the Lee County Commission’s direct support annually of $40,000 and indirect support (administrative support by the LCC office) places the ASB on sound financial footing.
Rendleman has budgeted for the ASB since it was started in 2011. He has seen the legislation gradually translated into reality. He noted: “The main objective of the ASB is to have those involved with criminal justice in Lee County at the same table with a role in developing alternative sentencing programs, which was the goal of the legislation.”
The county administrator has learned a lot about sentencing options that he finds interesting. He said there is a certain level of accomplishment to know that some people who made bad choices can get a second chance in Lee County in lieu of waiting in jail as the process unfolds. Interestingly, he found he has much more respect for those involved in the criminal justice system.
“The facts and circumstances they (court officials) have to weigh in making decisions which will affect someone’s future are sometimes not straight forward and not an easy call to make,” according to Rendleman.
Born in Boulder, Colo., he grew up mainly in Montgomery. He graduated from Auburn University with a BS/BA in accountancy. Rendleman is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Governmental Finance Officer, and has served Lee County as Administrator for 14 years.
Another Lee County employee who plays a vital role for the ASB, as a non-board member, is Wendy Swann. She has been the official recorder since its first meeting in 2011. But she has actually been associated with the ASB since 2008, in her position as governmental relations coordinator. It was in 2008 that the county began the process of getting an alternative sentencing bill drafted for the Legislature; it passed in 2009.
“The criminal justice system is always more complex than what most people realize,” Swann said recently. “I am glad to see Lee County taking an alternative sentencing approach as not all crimes need to be treated with jail terms, particularly in the case of non-violent offenses.”
In addition to the ASB, she assists the Parks and Recreation Board. While a newspaper reporter in East Alabama, Swann noticed that no other counties she covered had an alternative sentencing arrangement. Lee County was the ASB pioneer in this section of the state. A Gardendale native, Swann has lived in Auburn since 1992. She has a bachelors’ in journalism from Auburn University and has been a Lee County employee for almost nine years.
The Lee County Alternative Sentencing Board meets quarterly. The date, time and place of a meeting are publicized in the Observer, on the county’s website www.leeco.us and by other local media outlets.