The hiring of David “Spike” Boudoin by Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal to the newly-created position of director of community relations, while prompting an official complaint with the State Board of Ethics, would appear to be the least of Ackal’s problems.
Boudoin finished in third place behind Ackal and parish jail warden Roberta Boudreaux in the October 24 primary election and on Oct. 30 Boudoin was hired and simultaneously announced his endorsement for Ackal’s re-election.
And though Boudreaux fired off a three-page letter to the ethics commission in filing an official complaint of a possible felony in connection with the hiring/endorsement, Ackal has plenty other matters on his plate.
For starters, a half-dozen current and former Iberia Parish deputies recently entered guilty pleas to five felony charges and one misdemeanor in Western District Federal Court in Lafayette in connection with inmate beatings. http://theadvocate.com/news/acadiana/14969306-123/three-former-two-current-iberia-parish-sheriffs-employees-plead-guilty-in-beating-inmates-at-the-par
This, of course, was after a prisoner allegedly managed to shoot himself in the chest, according to a coroner’s report, as he sat in a sheriff’s department patrol car with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
Five of the six, former deputies Wade Bergeron, 40, of Milton, Wesley Hayes, 36, of St. Martinville, and Jesse James Hayes, 36, of St. Martinville and current employees Ben LaSalle, 34, of Erath, and Brett Broussard, 35, of Broussard, face up to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000 each while former deputy Robert Burns, 46, of Youngsville, could be sentenced to up to a year in prison and fined $100,000.
Along with Boudreaux’s ethics complaint and the federal indictments and resulting guilty pleas, Ackal also has just been hit with a federal sexual harassment lawsuit by a former female employee who says one of Ackal’s protégés made repeated sexual advances even though Ackal was aware of the problem but did nothing to stop it.
In her ETHICS COMPLAINT, Boudreaux, who said she intends to seek the sheriff’s office again, cited a Louisiana statute which addresses election offenses involving bribery, threats or intimidation of election officials or candidates.
The section referenced by her says “No person shall knowingly, willfully, or intentionally:
“Give or offer to give, directly, or indirectly, any money or anything of apparent present or prospective value to any person who has withdrawn or who was eliminated prior or subsequent to the primary election as a candidate for public office, for the purpose of securing or giving his political support to any remaining candidate or candidates for public office in the primary or general election.
“When such person is a candidate for public office who has withdrawn or was eliminated prior to or subsequent to the primary election, accept(s) or offer(s) to accept directly or indirectly, any money, or anything of apparent present or prospective value that is given for the purpose of securing or giving his political support to any remaining candidate or candidates for public office in the primary or general election.
“Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be fined not more than $2000 or be imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not more than two years, or both, for the first offense. On a second offense, or any subsequent offense, the penalty shall be a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment at hard labor for not more than five years, or both.”
What makes this particularly knotty for Ackal is this is his second trip down that same road. The good news is no complaint was filed when he did the same thing four years ago. In the 2011 election, he hired third place finisher Bobby Jackson as an intelligence analyst but never gave him working space, equipment or any direction as to his duties, said Jackson, who quit after only two months on the job because he said he had no desire to walk around “with my thumb in my rear.” As for Ackal’s most recent hire of third-place finisher Boudoin, Jackson said he sees “history repeating itself.”
Boudreaux said she believes that Ackal violated the provisions she cited by offering Boudoin the captain’s position at a salary of $50,658 “in exchange for Mr. Boudoin’s endorsement in the Nov. 21, 2015, runoff election.
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The SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAWSUIT, filed by former employee Laurie Segura, said Bert Berry, Chief of the Criminal Department began in 2012 and lasted for 10 months. She said she attempted to avoid Berry when possible but did not report him for 10 months because she feared retaliation, a fear she said was realized once she did complain.
Segura, who began working at the sheriff’s office in July 2008, resigned in January 2015 when the work environment became intolerable, she said.
She says in her petition that Berry, who moved into her suit of offices in 2012, rubbed his hands and crotch against her body and that he would sneak up on her and kiss her and that he made “inappropriate inquiries” about her sex life. She said he talked “graphically about his fantasies of having sex with her, (tried) to convince her to engage in phone sex with him,” and that he simulated sex acts in her presence and talked about his penis.
She said he ignored her repeated requests that he leave her alone, so she began evasive tactics. “When the security cameras showed he was coming into the office, she immediately picked up the phone and pretended she was in the middle of a phone call,” her petition says.
“In order to intimidate her from taking action,” the suit says, “Berry constantly brought up his relationship with Sheriff Ackal and how the sheriff had practically raised him.”
After she finally reported him to Human Resources, “retaliation was swift and sustained,” the petition says. She said that Ackal “sanctioned” Berry’s behavior even though Berry admitted to Ackal that he had committed the harassment.
Instead of reprimanding Berry, Ackal instead met with the sheriff office’s legal counsel, Ackal’s chief deputy and Berry (by telephone), and prepared a letter of accusations against Segura in an effort to get her to drop her complaint.
Ackal met with Segura the following day, the petition says, and accused her of exposing her breasts in public and of bragging about her sexual activities. “Even though Segura had anticipated retaliation, she was shocked at this letter and asked who had made these false allegations,” the lawsuit says. While Ackal refused to reveal his source, he did tell her that he would communicate with Berry that she denied the allegations, “making clear that Berry was involved with the letter,” she said.
“Instead of taking action and dismissing a man who had admittedly engaged in egregious harassment, the sheriff tried to make Segura guilty for making the complaint,” the petition says. “He talked about how hard this situation was for him because he basically raised Berry. He would not even put a reprimand in Berry’s file after he learned it would be part of Berry’s public record.” She said Ackal refused to move Berry, claiming there was nowhere to put him, “which was absolutely untrue,” she said.
She says Ackal gave raises totaling $35,000 a year to three subordinates who immediately “tried in a variety of different ways to intimidate Segura into dropping her complaint” and that the sheriff’s legal counsel tried to pressure her to quit her job.
She said Ackal approached the situation not as her problem but one that might hurt his chances of re-election “and he needed four more years on the job.”
She said that Berry ordered an audit of her computer following her filing of an EEOC complaint against him.
After the retaliation reached the point of physical threats, she said, she finally left her job in January of 2015. “But even then the retaliation did not cease,” she said. Instead Ackal began “falsely accusing her of stealing his campaign funds.”
When Ackal failed to respond to her EEOC complaints, she finally resorted to her federal lawsuit.