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Lafayette Parish fires latest salvo in suit with sheriff

Posted at 1:20 PM, Jan 09, 2020

Lafayette Parish has fired the latest salvo in ongoing litigation with Sheriff Mark Garber, accusing him of multiple violations of state law and demanding either reimbursement or credit for overpayments.

Last year, the sheriff filed suit against the parish, demanding at least part of the money he maintains is the parish's responsibility to pay in running the parish jail. As is required, the parish filed an answer to the suit, which basically denies all the sheriff's claims. But on Monday, the parish filed what's called a "reconventional demand" in the case. It's a legal document filed by a defendant in a civil lawsuit, responding to the plaintiff's accusations and claims with their own demands.

In the demand filed Monday, the parish claims that the sheriff is obligated to pay the parish back (via reimbursement or credit) for costs the parish has paid that it wasn't required to pay, and claims the money was overpaid "due to poor accounting practices of the sheriff" and in some cases violations of state law.

At issue in the demand is the housing and care of non-parish prisoners. Most jails in Louisiana, if they are accredited, house prisoners for the state Department of Corrections and for other agencies, including federal agencies. The jails get paid a certain amount per day to house those prisoners.

The demand claims that Garber moved parish prisoners out of LPCC in order to make room for DOC and federal prisoners, because he gets paid a lot more to house those prisoners. The problem with that, the demand claims, is that Garber continues to ask the parish for money to support housing all prisoners - even those that aren't the parish's prisoners.

State law forbids local jails from collecting twice for the housing of DOC prisoners, the claim states.

"...when the state makes payment in accordance with this subsection, no additional compensation from the parish governing authority shall be paid to the sheriff for the care of those prisoners being held for the department," the claim quotes the law as saying.

The claim also accuses Garber of forcing the parish to pay more to house its own prisoners in other jails. If a parish prisoner stays in LPCC, the parish has to pay the sheriff $3.50 per day. If the prisoner stays in another jail, the parish has to pay $25.39 per day.

"This exorbitant increase in costs to the parish has come without compliance with (state law)," the demand states.

The demand states that, while the Parish may not be able to stop Garber from housing DOC prisoners at LPCC, it can try to stop Garber from transferring parish prisoners to other jails.

Over the past several years, the Parish has seen a 300 percent increase in out-of-parish housing bills, the demand claims.

The demand also claims over-payments for the cost of transporting prisoners, accusing Garber of demanding the parish pay for transportation of all prisoners - even DOC and federal prisoners to other parishes. The demand accuses Garber of removing details on his invoices so the Parish can't tell which charges are for non-parish inmates.

And, the demand claims that the Parish has been billed for 100 percent of some medical costs - even though the current Intergovernmental Agreement between the parish and the sheriff calls for a 50-50 split.

We've reached out to the Sheriff's Office for a response. It does not appear from clerk's records that the Sheriff has been served with the demand.

Here are the documents if you want to read them for yourself: