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Federal grand jury investigating former St. Tammany Sheriff and now-shuttered work release

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A federal grand jury is investigating former St Tammany Parish Sheriff Rodney “Jack” Strain and one of the privately-run work release programs he ran, owned by the children of some of Strain’s top deputies.

The St. Tammany Sheriff’s Office received a federal grand jury subpoena two weeks ago for contracts and personnel documents, including documentation related to any payout Strain allegedly received for unused sick or annual leave.

Federal prosecutors also asked for extensive records related to the work release program that Strain privatized in Slidell. The former sheriff issued a no-bid contract to St. Tammany Workforce Solutions, LLC to run the program.

State records show that company is owned by a local home builder, Alan Tingle, and the children of two of Strain’s top deputies, Brandy Hanson and Jarret Cole Keen.

Work release programs allow prisoners at the end of their sentences to work jobs in the community and return to prison-like barracks at night. The private programs took a majority of the inmates’ pay and the Sheriff’s Office received the per diem payments from the La. Department of Corrections to house them.

Problems with the private programs under Strain were exposed in a series of investigative reports by WWL-TV and partner newspaper the New Orleans Advocate starting in 2013.

Former Slidell Police Chief and current St Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith defeated Strain in his last bid for re-election in 2015.

“I was first approached by Federal authorities about this investigation shortly before I took office. Upon taking office as Sheriff, I instructed my staff to provide complete and total cooperation with this Federal investigation, which we did. With this grand jury subpoena being issued, it would appear the Federal investigation appears to be proceeding into the next phase,” Smith said in a statement released Tuesday.

The federal subpoena seeks calendars, contracts and correspondence about the work release program from Hanson, Keen, Strain and a man named Ryan Palmer, who sources say is a relative of Strain’s who worked in maintenance.

Investigative reports have also raised questions about how Strain spent public dollars, as records show he used public money to fix up the Slidell work release facility before handing it over to the private contractor to run.

Strain could not be reached for comment.

The subpoena requests production of the documents by March 30.

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