Campaigns squabble over farm’s use

The use of farmland for educational purposes in Franklin County has become a hot topic in the final week leading up to the June 1 Democratic primary.

The two House of Representatives District 18 candidates are at odds over funding for Cypress Cove Farm, which is owned by Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow.

On Monday, Morrow’s opponent, Russellville City Councilman Jeff Masterson, issued a release accusing Morrow of using more than $75,000 in state funds to renovate the property and to hire someone to work there.

Johnny Mack Morrow

Cypress Cove Farm is used by area schools to educate students about life in the past. It has been the site of archaeological digs as well as other educational events and has been visited by more than 15,000 citizens.

Masterson said that Morrow used his state discretionary funds to construct buildings, install irrigation systems and to hire an employee of the Bear Creek Development Authority to do work on the farm.

“To be honest, I was astounded when I found out,” Masterson said.

“Our schools in Franklin and Colbert counties are hurting and Johnny Mack is spending our tax dollars on his farm.”

Masterson’s campaign also issued documentation obtained through the Alabama open records law.

Two county mayors, however, dispute Masterson’s claim.

Hodges Mayor Ed Crouch, who is chairman of the BCDA, and Red Bay Mayor Bobby Forsythe, a BCDA board member, said Tuesday that Masterson’s claims were “false and outrageous.”

“This attack is outrageous,” Crouch said.

“Johnny Mack Morrow has sacrificed the use of his own land, leased it to BCDA for free, and now he is being attacked for an act that benefits thousands of school children and adults.”

Jeff Masterson

BCDA leases Cypress Cove Farms from Morrow and conducts educational programs for schools and the public on the land. BCDA uses the land exclusively and has created exhibits to teach visitors what life was like on an early Alabama farm, Crouch said.

“It is my understanding that the BCDA Authority leases this land from Rep. Morrow and the lease agreement doesn’t give Johnny Mack one red cent for the use of his land,” Forsythe said.

“I worked for 5 1/2 years for Franklin County Community Education and was a part of the group that sponsored Farm Day, Storytelling and other events at Cypress Cove Farm.”

Crouch asked Masterson to stop mailing circulars and advertisements that attack Morrow on this issue.

“We are calling on Jeff Masterson to cease airing and mailing these false attacks,” Crouch said.

“These attacks may be aimed at winning an election, but they harm the good name not only of the BCDA, but also of the teachers and others who work so hard to make our educational programs possible.”

Masterson said he has a web link to the documentation he issued in his release. It can be viewed at http://www.scribd.com/doc/31922700/Morrow-Uses-Tax-Money-for-Personal-Gain.

“My campaign has never mentioned the BCDA at all, but if they choose to participate in this discussion, then I have some questions for them also,” he said.

Forsythe said that he is unaware of funding being given to Morrow.

“Rep. Morrow has always been supportive of these activities for our school children. These events, that I was a part of, never gave funds to Mr. Morrow for the use of his property,” Forsythe said.

“The good thing about accusations is that they can be supported or disproved by facts. I now request that the facts be shown.”

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