One year after an ethics adjudicatory panel dismissed all charges against him, former longtime Legislative Fiscal Officer John Rombach is suing the state, legislative leaders and others for defamation and malicious prosecution.
Rombach, who resigned in 2005, alleges a 2004 legislative auditor’s report and the 2006 ethics charges were part of a “contrived scheme’’ to get rid of him and his “ever-watchful eye.’’
The defendants — described in Rombach’s lawsuit as his “band of detractors’’ — include Senate President Joel Chaisson II, House Speaker Jim Tucker, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera and Purpera’s predecessor, Steve Theriot.
House spokeswoman Sheila McCant said Wednesday the House had not been served with the suit.
“We do not comment on any pending litigation,’’ she said.
Purpera, who noted the Legislative Auditor’s Office issued a public report regarding Rombach in 2004, also said he had not been served with a copy of the suit and could not comment.
On Aug. 20, 2010, an ethics adjudicatory panel rejected Louisiana Board of Ethics claims that Rombach violated state law by giving himself a retroactive pay raise, a car allowance and overtime pay for legislative session work.
The activity dated back to 2002, 2003 and 2004.
“The adjudicatory panel found that the Ethics Board put forth no evidence of any violation. They didn’t say insufficient. They didn’t say weak. They said ‘none’. And they were right,’’ Rombach’s attorney, Chris Alexander, said Wednesday.
The ethics charges followed a report by then-Legislative Auditor Theriot that questioned Rombach’s actions.
The report concluded Rombach did not have the right to take a retroactive pay raise or a car allowance without budget committee approval.
The report said state officials knew about the overtime practice but did nothing about it.
Rombach claimed then, and again in his lawsuit filed Monday in state District Court, that the report and charges were part of an orchestrated plan to get rid of him because he provided an independent voice on fiscal matters.
“During 16 years of acting as the Legislative Fiscal Officer, Mr. Rombach created many political enemies — individuals who felt their respective pieces of legislation were unfairly targeted by Mr. Rombach as placing an unreasonable burden on the public fisc,’’ the lawsuit said.
“Quite simply, these opponents believed Mr. Rombach was being too aggressive in identifying excesses in proposed governmental spending, and they actively desired to remove Mr. Rombach from his position in order to allow their own legislation to escape Mr. Rombach’s ever-watchful eye,’’ the lawsuit said.
Rombach contends in his lawsuit that a number of legislators and legislative staff members initiated a plan to “force’’ him out of his position, basing their efforts on a “longstanding (but non-codified) custom or practice of paying state employees any increase in their salary retroactive to their anniversary date.’’
The lawsuit said Rombach’s detractors also identified his per diem payments and car allowance payments as being salary’ to which he was not entitled absent an express legislative mandate.
“Mr. Rombach’s office had employed these customs or practices in exactly the same manner as every other office or agency in the State of Louisiana,’’ the lawsuit said.
The adjudicatory panel’s decision also noted it was common practice to award pay raises retroactive to anniversary dates of employment.
The panel disagreed with the Ethics Board’s conclusion that Rombach’s overtime pay and car allowance were part of his salary and needed Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget approval as required for salary increases.
Rombach claims the defendants’ defamatory statements have prevented him from finding employment.
The case has been assigned to state District Judge Tim Kelley.