Letters for 08-17-2017

Sheriff, district attorney take easy way out
Over the years, I’ve been complimented
(at least I took it that way) by having people
tell me (in a much more primal way) that I
can tell you you’re likely to suffer eternal
damnation in such a manner that you’ll
almost enjoy the trip. [You’ll figure it out
in time].
If it merits, I’ll tell everyone who reads
something that this particular person is
doing a good job. If they aren’t, well, I’ve
got to tell that story too.
Most of you who read this might remember
that a looooong time ago, Exlax
had a slogan they used in their television
commercials. They said it was “thorough,
yet gentle.” In a sense, that’s my approach
to what I do for a living.
In the time I’ve been here, I’ve developed
relationships that have turned into friendships.
I genuinely like some of the people
I have to cover. That doesn’t mean I’ll give
them a pass when I think they need calling
out. This here is one of those instances.
Even if the extent of your legal expertise
is that you’ve watched lots of “Law and Order,”
you’re probably like almost everyone
I’ve come in contact with over the last couple
of weeks who has asked, “Why haven’t
they done anything to Sandra Ward?”
In case you’re just tuning in, go back to
Page 1 and read the lead story.
OK, now that you’re back, it’s as obvious
as the nose on each of our faces that it
really looks like Mrs. Ward broke at least a
couple of laws. A 9-1-1 dispatcher who apparently
left her work post in the midst of
sending text messages to her son in effortsto warn him deputies were looking for him
as the suspect in a domestic violence case,
Mrs. Ward was allowed to first take vacation
time and later switch to sick leave as
taxpayers foot the bill for her not coming
to work.
More than a few of you – in fact every
one of you who’ve asked me what was going
on – have expressed a belief that some
of Mrs. Ward’s time should’ve been spent
making arrangements to get out of jail
after she was charged with obstruction
of justice, malfeasance in office and who
knows what else.
That at least a few hours of her time
off haven’t been spent this way is where
I’m going to at least strain a couple of
Sheriff Dusty Gates and Third District
Attorney John Belton agreed Monday to
not charge Mrs. Ward, wanting instead to
remove themselves as much as possible
from the fray and present the evidence
against her to a grand jury.
And then there’s her boss, 9-1-1 director
Danny Smith. He has flat out refusedto take any action against her. He’s told
several folks – me included – that he can’t
do anything without the approval of his
board. In a word, that’s poppycock. He
may not have hired Mrs. Ward, but he’s
hired other employees since he started in
his post. And he’s fired a few as well. If
he wanted to, he could take some action
against Mrs. Ward. Why won’t he? Who
knows? But more than a few folks have
suggested a game of “Connect the Dots.”
Danny’s sister is married to Union Parish
Police Jury member Stan Smith, whose
sister is Sandra Smith Ward. See? Wasn’t
that easy?
Here’s the thing about grand juries.
There’s an old saying that a DA could get
a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.
What that means is they can present a
compelling enough case for a grand jury to
find the ham sandwich did, in fact, break
and kill the pickle. The opposite side of
that coin is they can also purposely put
on so poor a case that even though the
ham sandwich was found standing over
the dead pickle with pickle juice dripping
from the knife in his hands that the grand
jury won’t find any reason to file charges.
In the interim, Mrs. Ward continues to
draw a check. And people – lots and lots
of people – are left to wonder why didn’t
the sheriff, the DA and the 9-1-1 director
do the right thing.
Mark Rainwater may be reached at the
offices of The Gazette, 104 N. Washington
in Farmerville, by calling 318.368.9732 or
by emailing mark@fgazette.com.