20 Jun Warden Files Whistleblower Lawsuit
Iberia Parish Jail’s former warden, Wesley Hayes, alleges he was fired last year for whislteblowing. He reported inmate beatings, theft, and forgery by deputies.
Hayes served as warden from December 2009 to October 2013. He filed a lawsuit under Louisiana’s “whistleblower” statute Tuesday in Iberia Parish state court.
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is named as the defendant in the lawsuit.
The death of Victor White III on March 2 already has the agency under scrutiny. White died while in police custody. He was handcuffed in the back of a sheriff’s cruiser. In 2013 another indecent occurred when responding to a street party, a handcuffed man was allegedly kicked and clubbed by a deputy.
The lawsuit alleges 3 incidents of abuse at the jail. Hayes says he witnessed two in April, 2011. The third was captured on video in 2012. Hayes says, “out of fear of retaliation”, he initially didn’t report the attacks in 2011. According to the lawsuit, he gave a statement later describing what he saw.
The lawsuit states that Hayes brought the video of the 2012 incident to the attention of the Sheriff’s Office.
Hayes does not name the deputies directly involved in the alleged attacks. Whether they received disciplinary action is unclear.
Whistleblower Lawsuit Attorney
Clay Burgess, Hayes’ attorney, declined to discuss the details of the allegations. Sheriff Louis Ackal cited a policy of not commenting on pending litigation. He did not comment on Hayes’ termination or the lawsuit.
Hayes believes he received retribution because he complained of three other deputies.
According to the whistleblower lawsuit, a deputy described as friend of Ackal was arrested for theft. He was accused by Hayes of stealing and selling copper wire from the jail’s air conditioning units.
On Hayes’ recommendation, a second deputy was fired for forging a supervisor’s signature approving overtime.
A Sheriff’s Office captain’s stepson is the third deputy named in the lawsuit. Hayes recommended his termination for stealing inmate funds. According to the suit, to save the deputy’s stepfather “some embarrassment”, another captain blocked criminal charges.
Hayes is seeking, among other things, unspecified damages for lost wages, embarrassment and damage to his reputation.
Hayes states that prior to his termination his, “personnel folder did not contain any evidence of any employee misconduct or performance deficiencies.”
Multiple Questionable Misdeeds
The Sheriff’s Office attracted national media attention earlier this year following the death of White. The 22-year-old New Iberia man died from a gunshot wound. He was handcuffed and in the back of a Sheriff’s Office cruiser when shot on March 2.
Iberia Parish Coroner Dr. Carl Ditch ruled White’s death a suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his chest. The White family members and civil rights activists have questioned the ruling.
Federal investigators are looking into the death, according to statement last month from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Federal authorities, at Ackal’s request, had already investigated an earlier allegation that a deputy kicked and clubbed a handcuffed man when responding to a street party in New Iberia in September 2013.
The deputy, who the Sheriff’s Office has not identified, was fired last year after an internal probe.
Federal authorities have not publicly disclosed details about either investigation, and no criminal charges have been filed.
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