Mary Tutwiler

Iberia sheriff attempting to break policing contract with New Iberia

by Mary Tutwiler

Iberia sheriff attempting to break policing contract with New Iberia Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal is looking at his options concerning three contracts he inherited from former Sheriff Sid Hebert. Ackal, who took office in July, 2008, says the contracts are breaking the budget of the department, and he is asking the state attorney general’s office whether the terms of the contracts are legally binding. Ackal says the three contracts — for policing the city of New Iberia, funding for the parish jail, and a lease for the parish prisoner work release facility are all draining his coffers.

Five years ago, the city contracted with the sheriff’s department to take over law enforcement, and in a highly controversial action that caused incumbent Mayor Ruth Fontenot to lose her seat, disbanded its police department. Ackal says with his stepped up patrols, new equipment and jailing of the city’s criminals, the current $3.4 million contract is not covering costs. Mayor Hilda Curry says that counting in sales tax and millages dedicated to law enforcement as well as incidentals incurred by the city, the actual amount of money the sheriff collects from New Iberia is over $7 million annually. She is adamant that the city will not increase its payment to the sheriff. Costs to run the jail are about $1.6 million a year, but according to Ackal, Hebert received about $700,000 in operational funds from parish government. A third drain on the sheriff’s department is the $30,000 monthly rent on the prisoner work release facility, an amount which doubled under Hebert. Hebert has taken issue with Ackal’s charges, blaming budget woes on bad management and new debt.

According to the Daily Iberian, Ackal is looking at a state statute that says in part, “a management agreement entered into by a law enforcement district shall not constitute debt or obligation of the general credit or revenues of the law enforcement district.” Ackal hopes to void the contracts and renegotiate more favorable terms.