Lafayette Sheriff’s Office settles suit filed by deputy – Deputy to get $175,000, resign post

Source: Billy Gunn - The Advocate - Acadiana Bureau 07/16/2013

LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office has settled a 2011 lawsuit filed by a deputy who said he was targeted within the department and demoted after reporting the head of the parish jail system had falsified a document. In a settlement reached in May and made public recently, the Sheriff’s Office agreed to pay former Lafayette Parish Correctional Center supervisor Matthew Thomassee $175,000 to settle the lawsuit.

In return, Thomassee agreed to resign from the Sheriff’s Office and withdraw a complaint he made to the Louisiana Board of Ethics about the department, Sheriff Mike Neustrom and Director of Corrections Rob Reardon. Attempts to reach Thomassee and the Sheriff’s Office for comments were unsuccessful Monday.

One of the stipulations cited in the 12-page agreement was no one involved was to comment publicly, except, when asked, to respond, “… that the parties have resolved their differences or the matter has been settled or something of similar effect and intent.”

The settlement document also said the Sheriff’s Office and officials named in the suit were admitting no guilt in connection with Thomassee’s allegations.

Thomassee filed the lawsuit in May 2011 and sought unspecified damages after his 2010 demotion from lieutenant to deputy and after being pulled from a supervisory position at the parish prison and put in another division.

Thomassee also was put on probation for one year, according to the lawsuit.

Thomassee, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1999, said he reported alleged sheriff’s employee misconduct to Reardon in 2008 but the allegations were never investigated.

In March 2010, Thomassee told an internal affairs investigator that sometime between Sept. 16, 2004, and May 5, 2005, he witnessed Reardon sign a document and backdate it to Jan. 6, 2003.

The lawsuit says the Sheriff’s Office never pursued the claim Thomassee made against Reardon and it was Thomassee who became an investigatory target.

Thomassee also lodged a Louisiana Ethics Board complaint against the Sheriff’s Office, Neustrom, Reardon and three other sheriff’s officials.

Thomassee said that several times in early 2010, while at work, he was pressured to purchase tickets to a steak dinner fundraiser for Neustrom which, if true, was a violation of the state’s ethics code.

The lawsuit settlement was signed May 15 by Thomassee and his wife, Neustrom and Reardon.

It stipulates Thomassee must resign from the Sheriff’s Office 10 days after receiving the settlement check, that he return all department records in his possession and never again seek a job with the Sheriff’s Office.

According to the May 15 document, the $175,000 settlement is for $65,000 in back wages, $51,666 in damages and $58,333 in attorneys fees.

Also in the document is a “Non-Admission” clause.

“In fact, LPSO, Neustrom, and Reardon deny that they are responsible in any way for the released claims,” it said. “They continue to deny all allegations emphatically.”