A lawsuit involving the internal politics of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office can sometimes sound like a family squabble, but the dispute involves a public agency supported by taxpayers.
That’s why everyone should have a clear view of the legal proceedings, a principle now being challenged by the sealing of a court motion related to the suit. It’s not in the interest of the people the sheriff’s department is supposed to serve, which is why The Advocate and WWL-TV have asked the court to unseal the motion. We hope the court acts quickly to do just that.
Ten former employees of the department are suing Sheriff Randy Smith, claiming they were unfairly treated because of their loyalty to his predecessor, Jack Strain. Three of the plaintiffs recently asked the court to sever their claims from those of the other plaintiffs, essentially putting their part of the suit on hold. Since the motion is sealed, the motives behind it are unclear.
Some of the plaintiffs are closely connected to an inmate work release program now under federal scrutiny. That probe raises obvious questions about past dealings in the sheriff’s office. The best way to answer to those concerns is transparency, not secrecy. We urge the court to let the sunshine in, and make the motion public.