Jason Ard has been reelected to a third term as Livingston Parish sheriff after a group of 12 current employees filed a lawsuit to disqualify Ard's only opponent.
Walter Ray "Beau 22" Wesley, an independent from Watson, was disqualified by a 21st Judicial District court judge last week for failing to pay taxes over the last five years.
The group of 12 plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit against Wesley aiming to disqualify him from the race all work for the Livingston Parish Sheriff's Office in a range of capacities, from deputies to higher-level administrators. The plaintiffs are: Mike Erwin, Brian Smith, Calvin Bowden, Alden Thomassen, Patrick Bedwell, Jeff Beaty, Ben Bourgeois, Steven Erdey, Ben Ballard, Raymond Prokop, Charles Roberts and Lance Landry.
A series of exhibits filed in the civil case against Wesley show the group filed a public records request with the Louisiana Department of Revenue to find individual income tax returns for Wesley, but a records custodian responded on Aug. 12 saying that income tax returns for years 2014 through 2018 could not be confirmed.
The plaintiffs and Wesley appeared before Judge Brenda Bedsole Ricks on Aug. 15 to present evidence and testimony, after which the judge determined Wesley should be disqualified based on the tax issue. The secretary of state's candidate website reflected Wesley's disqualification as of this week.
Eric Pittman, attorney for the plaintiffs, said Wednesday that Louisiana law dictates the timeline for challenging a political candidate, meaning the group of deputies had only seven days from the close of qualification to file suit and another four days after that to have a hearing on the matter.
"I think my clients thought from the get-go that Mr. Wesley wasn't qualified, and once we found out there were good grounds to believe so, we went forward, and the judge found the evidence enough to disqualify him," Pittman said.
Ard said Wednesday he did not speak with the group of deputies about their plans to file suit against Wesley before they did so but was informed soon after they did it. Ard said he had planned to file a similar records request about Wesley's background to ensure he was qualified to run for the position, but the deputies got a head start.
"The deputies are the ones that actually filed, and I was in support of that," Ard said. "Sometimes it's about the integrity of the office and the integrity of the parish."
Ard said his deputies are very loyal, believe in their parish and have a right to stand up for who they want to be their sheriff. He said this election will be the first time he's run unopposed, and he posted to his Facebook page on Tuesday night saying he was humbled to again serve as sheriff.
"I sit here grateful to be the Sheriff in a parish where citizens are eager to partner alongside law enforcement, to support community events and to give to those who are in need. I wouldn’t want to live — or be Sheriff — anywhere else," Ard wrote.
Wesley was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.