Randy Smith, who beat out longtime incumbent Jack Strain in 2015 to become St. Tammany Parish sheriff, said that corruption in his predecessor's administration is part of what prompted him to run.
Now that federal charges have been filed against two members of Strain's inner circle, Smith, who has already drawn two challengers for re-election, is stressing that he has cooperated with federal agents investigating an alleged kickback scheme centered on a work-release program that Strain privatized.
Tim Lentz, who announced in October that he is running against Smith, is clearly anticipating that the incumbent will try to make an issue out of Lentz's ties to Strain. Lentz worked for the Sheriff's Office for 30 years, ending his career there as chief deputy, before retiring and becoming Covington police chief.
The day after David Hanson Sr. and Curtis "Skip" Keen were charged in a federal bill of information with soliciting a bribe and conspiracy to commit honest-services wire fraud, Lentz issued a statement expressing his disappointment in his former boss.
Lentz said he is offended that someone he had respected was apparently involved in what he called "a vile breach of the public trust."
"Although my political opponents will undoubtedly try to paint with a broad brush and tie my public service into these misdeeds, I want to make clear that all of the federal charges are for incidents that happened after my retirement from the office," said Lentz, who left the Sheriff's Office in early 2013.
"Had I been aware of any such actions by the sheriff or any other public official, I would have made them known to appropriate authorities."