WPSO answers needed

Published 10:16 am Friday, November 16, 2012

A cloud of suspicion hangs over former Washington Parish Sheriff Robert Crowe after current Sheriff Randy Seal said auditors found what they called “bad accounting” practices from the previous administration.

Several accusations were made, including so-called “mailbox deputes,” where some people are paid for doing nothing. Seal even went on to say Crowe might have committed malfeasance in office, although at this point there appears to be no evidence to support that.

Seal, who took office July 1, also said his department was forced to borrow $1 million to make payroll and to pay for operational expenses; revenue from a federal grant has been frozen; and his department has had to purchase several new vehicles, boats and generators.

Because of Louisiana’s quirky policies regarding transfer of power when an incumbent sheriff leaves office, the borrowing of money and purchasing of new equipment by an incoming administration is not unusual. The outgoing administration often sells vehicles or boats or even command centers to balance the budget, which is mandated by the state for a departing sheriff.

Crowe faced a similar scenario when he first took office, and others have in the past as well. Seal is only continuing what has seemingly become a tradition.

More alarming are the accusations of potential wrongdoing in office by the former sheriff. Crowe’s former Chief Deputy Scott Blair, certainly an honorable officer, defended his former boss in a recent letter to The Daily News, and said the only “mailbox deputy” was an informant, something all law enforcement officers need to be effective.

There is no reason to discount Blair but the accusations cast a disparaging light on the former sheriff and the parish as a whole. An independent investigation seems to be in order to either exonerate Crowe or uncover any potential wrongdoings, whether they be financial or in other areas.

Until then doubt will collectively envelop the sheriff’s department, which is unfair to the current sheriff, his predecessor and parish residents.

Questions have been raised; now answers must be forthcoming.