NEW ORLEANS — Ten former St. Tammany Parish deputies are suing their former employer, Sheriff Randy Smith, after being terminated from their positions.
The deputies claim that they were wrongfully terminated solely because they chose to publicly support longtime incumbent Jack Strain during the 2015 election, which was won by Smith. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in a New Orleans federal court, all of the plaintiffs involved in the suit were longtime sheriff deputies until their termination.
According to the lawsuit, Smith, who took office July 1, 2016, did not offer the plaintiffs an opportunity to work for him. The plaintiffs in the case are seeking damages, which include back pay, front pay, loss of future earnings, lost benefits, emotional distress, humiliation and embarrassment.
Larry E. Demmons of Metairie, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on May 25, told the Louisiana Record that this type of case is likely more common than most people believe.
“Probably more common than it appears, as many cases of this type go unreported,” he said. “However, a review of the case shows this type of discrimination or retaliation is all too uncommon.”
Demmons said there have been similar cases that could help him and his clients win their case.
“I don’t think it is appropriate to discuss specific legal cases at this point in the litigation," Demmons said. “But as I mentioned before, there are prior cases dealing with this same issue that we believe support our position in this case.”
Demmons also stated that his clients’ rights to free political speech were violated.
“By refusing to renew my client’s commissions because they supported his political opponent, Mr. Smith violated my client’s rights to political speech [and] expression.” Said Demmons.
Demmons said he is confident that his clients will prevail.