Following in the footsteps of his wife, fired East Baton Rouge Parish Attorney Mary Roper’s husband filed his own lawsuit against the city-parish government this week seeking damages for what he describes as racial discrimination, including regularly being referred to as a “terrorist,” and for defamation.
Roper’s husband, Eiad Odeh, has worked for the city-parish since 2001 doing information technology work for the Department of Public Works.
In his suit, Odeh, who is of Arab descent, alleges his co-workers and supervisors openly harassed him about his ethnicity. He claims his superiors retaliated against him by demoting him and transferring him because he attempted to report activities and practices that were wasteful of taxpayer money. Odeh also claims Baton Rouge officials defamed him and Roper by disclosing their names in the investigation of another employee who attempted to sell city-parish owned software as his own.
The suit says that in a 2009 email, JoAnne Moreau, director of the Mayor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said to Odeh, “Are you turning back into a terrorist?”
Another 2009 email, from Jonathan Adams to Odeh, says, “Do you understand English?”
The suit says supervisors and co-workers frequently referred to Odeh as “our local terrorist.”
Odeh filed his claims of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights just last month, on Nov. 14.
Reached for comment, Moreau said she is surprised by the allegations and that anything said was always in jest.
“He frequently said those things about himself,” Moreau said.
The lawsuit also alleges Odeh discovered the city-parish was wasting thousands of dollars paying for phone lines not connected to the city-parish system. But after reporting the excesses, his supervisors tried to transfer him to a “non-existent position,” the suit alleges.
When he refused to take the job, he was told his position was abolished and he was demoted into an “undesirable position” resulting in a “substantial loss of pay” and the removal of his car allowance, the suit alleges.
Roper was fired in September from her position as parish attorney, the city-parish government’s top legal adviser. Her job was first called into question this year when she was asked to take a leave of absence when her name surfaced in the city-parish software program investigation.
Roper sent an email to Odeh with source codes for the program, but Roper said she was in the midst of getting the program copyrighted for the city-parish and sent them to her husband for technical support, since he has a background in computer programming.
Odeh’s suit contends that connecting him to the investigation was “false, defamatory, (and placed him) in a false public light.”
Roper has sued the city-parish and individual council members over her termination and over emails she’s attempted to obtain via public record requests. She said she also plans to file a defamation law suit against the city-parish.
Odeh’s attorney, Jill Craft, did not return a call seeking comment. The Parish Attorney’s Office referred a reporter to Murphy Foster III, who is representing the council against Roper. Foster said he hadn’t seen the suit yet.