Mike Perlstein / Eyewitness News
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A former commander with the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office claims he was demoted and ultimately fired after he refused to buy tickets to a campaign event for the sheriff, according to a federal lawsuit.

Clinton Mathews, a 17-year veteran of the sheriff's office, claims said he was 'demoted, transferred and retaliated against' after he declined to purchase $250-a-plate tickets to Sheriff Jack Strain's 2011 campaign gala.

Despite having an unblemished work record, and once being named Officer of the Year, Mathews said he was subjected to a series of discriminatory reprisals until he was fired in October 2012.

Mathews was a lieutenant in the narcotics division when a supervisor, Capt. Barney Tyrney, asked him to buy a ticket and encourage other deputies under his command to do the same, according to the suit. When Mathews refused, Tyrney issued 'threats' and 'strong arm tactics.'

'Mr. Mathews soon began experiencing a hostile work environment and discriminatory employment acts,' the lawsuit states.

Among the reprisals, Mathews claimed he was demoted, transferred, given a 'humiliating' job evaluation, subjected to an unnecessary internal investigation and, eventually, fired when he couldn't return to full duty after a serious injury.

In a response to the lawsuit, Sheriff Strain issued this written statement: 'The only thing more troubling to me than the frivolous nature of this lawsuit is the fact that WWL deems newsworthy the unsubstantiated claims of a disgruntled former employee.'

Mathews is suing Strain, Tyrney, Maj. Joseph Jarrell and Capt. Richard Magee for damages, back pay and reinstatement based on alleged civil rights violations. Mathews also claims violations under the state whistle blower statute.

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