Judge: Rombach can proceed with case against state _lowres

Former Legislative Fiscal Officer John Rombach, who resigned from his post Thursday March 17, 2005. (THE ADVOCATE/ARTHUR D. LAUCK)

Former Legislative Fiscal Officer John Rombach’s defamation and malicious prosecution claims against the state were dismissed Wednesday by a Baton Rouge state appeals court.

Rombach’s attorney promised to take the case to the state’s highest court.

“We are headed to the Louisiana Supreme Court,” said Chris Alexander, who represents Rombach. “This decision marks a major injustice against Mr. Rombach.”

A three-judge panel of the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal saw it differently Wednesday, noting that Rombach’s 2011 lawsuit was amended once in 2012 and again in 2013.

“Nevertheless, he has yet to set forth material facts upon which a cause of action may be based,” Circuit Judge Wayne Ray Chutz wrote for the panel that included fellow Circuit Judges John Michael Guidry and Guy Holdridge.

“We decline to allow Rombach a third opportunity to speculate on unwarranted facts in an attempt to support his conclusion of entitlement to damages,” Chutz added.

Rombach is seeking damages from the Legislative Auditor’s Office, current and former legislative auditors, and legislative leaders.

“The court’s decision affirms that the elected officials and state entities and agencies acted appropriately in their actions regarding the employment of John Rombach,” said Wade Shows, who represents many of the defendants in the case.

Rombach claims the defendants caused the Louisiana Board of Ethics to wrongfully launch an ultimately unsuccessful ethics proceeding against him.

He resigned in 2005 and was absolved in 2010 of ethics charges filed against him in 2006.

“The silver lining here is that everybody now knows that Johnny Rombach was acquitted by the Ethics Board and never did anything wrong,” Alexander added.

A 2004 legislative auditor’s report found Rombach had no right to take a retroactive pay raise or a car allowance without approval by the Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget. The report, by then-Legislative Auditor Steve Theriot, said state officials knew about Rombach receiving overtime pay for legislative session work but did nothing about it.

An ethics adjudicatory panel in 2010 rejected Ethics Board claims that Rombach’s actions broke state law.

The panel said it was customary to award pay raises retroactive to anniversary dates of employment.

The ethics panel also disagreed with the board’s conclusion that Rombach’s overtime pay and car allowance were part of his salary and needed budget committee approval as required for salary hikes.