Sheriff’s Office files suit against parish government

Published 3:53 pm Monday, April 8, 2013

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal has filed suit against Parish President Richard Thomas and the Parish Council over nonpayment by the parish of what Seal believes are reimbursable expenses. He is also asking the court to force the parish to pay future  “fair and reasonable statutorily-mandated expenditures.”

In addition, the sheriff is petitioning the court to allow his office, as the parish tax collector, to withhold those funds due to the parish to pay for the expenses he believes are required to adequately fund his office.

In the suit, filed shortly after 9 a.m. in the Clerk of Court’s office Monday, Seal said since taking office in July he has invoiced the parish $261,110,57 for reimbursable expenses, and after non-disclosed deductions the total amount was $249,069.41.

According to the lawsuit, the parish has reimbursed the sheriff’s office $150,660.81, leaving a balance of $98,408.60, which Seal is asking the court to grant.

Additionally, the lawsuit says Seal is anticipating the parish’s response will be that it has in fact met its obligation to provide “reasonable funding” as mandated by state law. But the sheriff said the parish has provided “no factual or legal support whatsoever for its unilateral decisions.”

The suit contends the parish has left the sheriff “in the lurch,” without adequate funding to operate the office.

Also, Seal is anticipating the parish will respond that it has adopted an “unamendable budget and/or” has no financial resources to meet its obligations.” But, according to the suit, inadequate funding does not excuse the parish from meeting its obligations.

Finally, the lawsuit asks the court for a judgment declaring Seal’s “right to receive reimbursement from the parish for relevant expenses already incurred and the parish’s ongoing obligation” to fund future expenses set out in the suit.

“The parish has disregarded and/or ignored both its clear statutory obligations to Sheriff Seal and its responsibilities to the citizens of Washington Parish,” the suit contends.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a proposed .33 percent tax increase being soundly defeated Saturday night. Parish officials claimed the increase was necessary to maintain the current level of parish services as well as pay for state mandated expenses, including the offices of sheriff, assessor, clerk of court, registrar of voters, district attorney and the judges.

Some officials had also speculated a defeat of the tax would result in agencies filing suit against the parish for not meetings mandated obligations.

The suit was filed by attorney Charles M. Hughes and Gary L. Hanes of Mandeville.

Seal was out of the office Monday and unavailable for comment.

Thomas was not immediately available for comment. Parish attorney Wayne Kuhn said he could not comment on the case.