LAFAYETTE — The former warden of the Iberia Parish Jail alleges he was fired last year for complaining about inmate beatings and reporting other wrongdoing by deputies that included theft and forgery.
Wesley Hayes, who served as warden from December 2009 to October 2013, made the claims under Louisiana’s “whistle blower” statute in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in state court in Iberia Parish.
The suit names as defendant Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.
His allegations come as the agency is already under scrutiny for the March 2 death of Victor White III while handcuffed in the back of a sheriff’s cruiser and for a separate 2013 incident in which a deputy allegedly kicked and clubbed a handcuffed man when responding to a street party.
Hayes’ lawsuit list three instances of alleged abuse at the jail, two in April 2011 that Hayes said he witnessed and a 2012 incident captured on video. He initially did not discuss the 2011 attacks “out of fear of retaliation” but later gave a statement describing what he saw, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states Hayes brought the video of the 2012 incident to the attention of others at the Sheriff’s Office.
The former warden does not identify any of the deputies directly involved in the alleged attacks, and it is unclear whether they faced disciplinary action.
Hayes’ attorney, Clay Burgess, declined to discuss the details of the allegations, and Sheriff Louis Ackal did not respond to a request to comment on the lawsuit or the circumstances of Hayes’ termination, citing a policy of not commenting on pending litigation.
Hayes also claims retribution for his role in complaints against three other deputies.
One, described as a friend of Ackal, was arrested after Hayes accused him of stealing copper from air conditioning units at the jail and selling it, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit states a second deputy was fired on Hayes’ recommendation for forging a supervisor’s signature for overtime approval but then later reinstated.
A third deputy, the stepson of a Sheriff’s Office captain, was fired on Hayes’ recommendation for stealing inmate funds, but another captain intervened to block criminal charges to spare the deputy’s stepfather “some embarrassment,” according to the lawsuit.
Hayes is seeking unspecified damages for lost wages, embarrassment and damage to his reputation, among other things.
The former warden states in the lawsuit that his “personnel folder did not contain any evidence of any employee misconduct or performance deficiencies” prior to his termination.
The Sheriff’s Office attracted national media attention earlier this year following the death of White, the 22-year-old New Iberia man who died from a gunshot wound he received while handcuffed and in the back of a Sheriff’s Office cruiser 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, a finding that White’s family members and civil rights activists have questioned.
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.