A former reserve deputy with the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office says Sheriff Jack Strain committed ethics violations. The former deputy outlined his case to FOX 8, and it includes a secretly recorded conversation with a high-ranking member of the department. Strain, meanwhile, is fighting back.
Jeremiah Abbott worked for eight years with the St. Tammany Sheriff's Office. He and another man, former Detective Daniel Galavan, recently resigned after two encounters left them questioning leadership at the department. Abbott says it all began in November of last year when his ex-wife was arrested for running over his foot.
Abbott explains, "While she was in jail, then-Det. Daniel Galavan intercepted a series of phone calls in which her and her now boyfriend were discussing hiding my body."
Abbott says he feared for his life, so he contacted his colleagues. He believed the incident would be investigated by the major case unit but says it was shuffled around and eventually, he was told, it was being turned over to police in Pearl River, the town in which the incident occurred.
"If I'm just an average citizen and something like that were to take place, an incident or documented report would've been taken immediately, right then and there," Abbott said.
Abbott tells FOX 8 he can't comprehend why the sheriff's office wouldn't want to protect one of their own, and alleges the phone calls with the alleged threats from his ex-wife's boyfriend were never documented. He thinks it's because the ex-boyfriend is friendly with some high-ranking members of the department.
Sheriff Jack Strain disagrees, saying, "Well they're absolute liars. The fact of the matter is the audios were investigated by the Sheriff's Office." Strain says it was determined that the comments made in the jailhouse phone calls did not meet probable cause for a crime.
Fast forward three months. Abbott says he was called into Major Brad Hassert's office for a mandatory meeting. There, he recorded the conversation. In the recording provided to FOX 8, Hassert can be heard saying, "Some people in this agency have heard rumors that perhaps you're actively campaigning for Chief Smith for sheriff."
Abbott denies ever campaigning for anyone and says he was told the sheriff had a message for him: If he wanted to support Randy Smith in the upcoming election, perhaps it was time for him to leave his position to go work for Smith.
The sheriff denies ever telling Hassert to say that and adds that Abbott violated department policy. "He is out in uniform, in our reserve volunteer capacity as you talked about, campaigning actively while on duty against me or for my opponent," Strain said.
Abbott resigned from the Sheriff's Office a few days later. He says what he believes are ethics violations need to be exposed.
Again, Strain maintains he did nothing wrong, and says this is nothing more than a story about a couple of disgruntled employees. Meanwhile, Abbott is now a reserve officer with the Slidell Police Department.