Former longtime state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter claims he was fired in August 2010 for not bowing to a demand from the Governor’s Office to grant a liquor license for an entertainment square outside the Louisiana Superdome.
Painter, who wants to be reinstated, is suing the Governor’s Office and ATC for wrongful termination.
“I did not resign. There was no resignation,’’ Painter said Monday.
He also is suing state Inspector General Stephen Street and the Office of Inspector General for defamation.
Painter alleges that “improperly-conducted investigations, leaks to third parties, and incessant reports to the media’’ have defamed and damaged his reputation and character.
In the lawsuit filed Friday in Baton Rouge state court, Painter contends he was fired shortly after refusing to issue a license to SMG — the company that manages the Superdome and adjacent New Orleans Arena on behalf of the state — to sell alcohol at Champions Square, an entertainment complex outside the Dome.
“Such termination was a reprisal for refusing to violate Louisiana law at the request of the Governor’s Office,’’ the suit alleges.
Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin said Monday that Painter was “an unclassified appointee who was asked to resign for accessing government databases in a way that was found to be inappropriate.’’
An inspector general’s report released in February alleged Painter used his ATC post to illegally obtain information on judges, the governor’s staff, U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s wife and others more than 1,000 times over five years.
“We did a thorough investigation and issued a report. The report speaks for itself,’’ Street said Monday.
Law enforcement officials are forbidden by law from using criminal and other restricted databases for anything but official business.
The report states that Painter may have violated laws against computer tampering, fraud and improperly obtaining personal information.
Painter has denied doing anything illegal with the database, and no criminal charges have been filed against him.
“Almost a year later, criminal proceedings have not been instituted against Mr. Painter — despite assurances for many months that charges were imminent,’’ his suit states.
U.S. Attorney Donald J. Cazayoux Jr. said earlier this year he could neither confirm nor deny any investigation.
Painter acknowledges in the suit that he lawfully accessed both the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles drivers license database and a federal criminal records database while serving as ATC chief.
“Additionally, unknown to him, employees working for Mr. Painter had obtained his password to the criminal records database and … may have inappropriately accessed the database using his credentials,’’ the suit says.
Painter also was sued in August 2010 by his former administrative assistant, Kelli Suire, who accused him of sexually harassing and stalking her.
Painter denied the allegations.
Suire alleged in the suit that Painter used the National Crime Information Center database to search for personal information on her and her attorney, Jill Craft.
Painter’s former employer, the state Department of Revenue, settled that suit and several other claims last month, attorneys for Suire and the department have said. The department oversees ATC.
In Painter’s suit against the Governor’s Office, Street and others, Painter says there were legal problems with the SMG license request.
Champions Square opened last summer, and alcohol is served there.
Painter alleges that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s executive counsel essentially ordered him to issue a liquor license to SMG for Champions Square, but Painter and ATC refused. The suit does not identify the executive counsel by name.
“Two days later, on August 13, 2010, Mr. Painter was summoned to the Governor’s Office … where he met with the Governor’s Executive Counsel, the head of the Louisiana State Police, and another member of the Governor’s Executive Counsel Staff,’’ the suit says.
Painter was advised “that an unidentified law enforcement agency was investigating him for alleged criminal violations and that the Governor was asking for his resignation,’’ the suit states.
Painter’s suit says Street and his employees “have made numerous misrepresentations to the press’’ during the past year about Painter and his actions.
While ATC chief, Painter contends he contracted with a national company “to provide audited access to the criminal records database to ensure that it was properly accessed by ATC employees.’’
Painter’s access of the database “was in furtherance of his duties as a law enforcement agent and as Commissioner of ATC,’’ the suit claims.
The suit has been assigned to state District Judge Janice Clark.