JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The Jackson County Sheriff's Department continues to be plagued with problems and it could cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion. That's the total amount being demanded by several lawsuits filed against former Sheriff Mike Byrd and his administration, including a new sexual harassment suit this week.
Byrd pleaded guilty late last year to federal and state charges and then resigned from office. Now, lawsuits are being filed from people wanting him and the county to pay for more alleged crimes.
"Right now, we are looking at somewhere close to 12 lawsuits. From what we heard, the total amount is close to $1 billion," said Jackson County Supervisor Melton Harris.
Some of the lawsuits accuse Byrd of violating people's civil rights, abusing his power and even sexual harassment.
"Some of our attorneys say some maybe frivolous suits, we are not sure, but you don't shoot that many buckshots and don't get hit with some of them. We will have to pay some of the suits out," Harris said.
"Anytime someone sues, they sue for 50 to 100 times more than they think they will actually get because they know they will get a lesser amount, and I don't think this case is any different," Jackson County Supervisor Troy Ross said.
The possible payout for the crimes is left to the county and citizens to handle, and that's something supervisor Harris and Ross are not pleased about.
"No one wants pay any fine and any suits more than necessary. I wouldn't want our citizens and county to be subjected to these lawsuits, but there have been some issues that have taken place and we must be accountable for those," Harris said.
As the county's legal team works through a series of lawsuits, these supervisors hope the county will not be slammed with any more hefty suits. They also don't want citizens to lose trust in the sheriff's department.
"The sheriff's department in Jackson County has been plagued with a cloud for long time now. I hope we can move through November 5 and we end up with a new sheriff, move forward, get through some of the lawsuits and then the public's trust can truly start being restored," Ross said.