ST. TAMMANY, La. — The arrest this week of St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Terry Cederholm II for felony drug possession raises questions about why he was employed by the agency.
His personnel file invokes shades of the alleged favoritism that put former Sheriff Jack Strain in the crosshairs of federal investigators.
Court records in a related case indicate Strain is under federal investigation for an alleged kickback scheme involving two members of his inner circle.
Terry Cederholm II, 36, was arrested Monday and booked on two felony drug charges. His attorney, Roy Burns, maintains his clients innocence.
However, this isn’t his first brush with the wrong side of the law.
While he was never charged, police reports show Cederholm resigned under criminal investigation in 2009. Yet five years later, in 2014, an email sent by Strain approved Cederholm’s re-hire.
“His personnel file should have reflected that he resigned while under investigation,” said Metropolitan Crime Commission President Rafael Goyeneche.
That email that Strain approved indicates Cederholm resigned voluntarily, but his personnel jacket tells a much different story.
In 2008, while working in the jail, Cederholm was suspended for a week for wiping pepper spray on a toilet seat.
Less than a year later, STPSO reports say he showed up late to the training academy under the influence of alcohol.
Cederholm's then-Lieutenant Mark Arroyo wrote in his memo about the incident, "...never in my career have I seen an employee that was so cavalier regarding their inappropriate actions." He went on to say, “I recommend that Cadet Cederholm be terminated immediately, before he brings further disgrace upon this agency.”
“Showing up for work intoxicated would be enough to warrant dismissal of somebody,” Goyeneche said.
He was suspended for 40 hours and during that time, Cederholm reported his gun stolen.
Conflicting stories in the police report, from Cederholm and witnesses, indicate the deputy called a woman at 2:45 a.m. to inquire about his missing gun, identifying himself with a fake name, claiming to be a Pearl River Police Officer.
Investigators never found the gun and never charged Cederholm with any crime. The report indicates the woman who made the complaint about the phone call did not want to cooperate with the investigation.
But that day, Cederholm resigned his position at STPSO after being questioned by investigators about the incident.
“Makes you scratch your head and wonder why he was rehired,” Goyeneche said.
One possible factor is Cederholm’s family ties to Strain and the office. Cederholm's high-ranking father, Major Terry Cederholm, is an administrator at the jail, and his mother Karen Cederholm also works at the agency.
Cederholm's attorney denies that his family connections in the police department had anything to do with his return to the police force.
“...Major Cederholm is a respected and long serving member of the St. Tammy Sheriff’s Office. His son has never been given any preferential treatment by this Sheriff’s Administration or the prior Administration," Burns said.
“Whether this is just a mistake in judgment or something more sinister, I don't know. But I think it's scrutinized differently because of the well-known fact that he and his administration are under investigation now,” Goyeneche said.
Court documents indicate Strain is under federal investigation in a kickback scheme involving two members of his inner circle in which with favors were given to their families.
The STPSO would provide few details about Cederholm’s arrest Monday, but current Sheriff Randy Smith said, “I’m disappointed in this former employee’s conduct, however I have always held my employees to a very high standard and will not hesitate to terminate and/or arrest any employee who violates the public’s trust.”
A spokesman for Smith said the case has been sent to the St. Tammany Parish District Attorney for prosecution.