A secretary at the Florida Parishes Juvenile Detention Center who thought her bosses had pegged her as a whistleblower and planned to fire her now faces prosecution for recording her supervisor’s conversations without his consent.
Meanwhile, the actual whistleblower has sued the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice Commission, which oversees the detention center, claiming management forced her to quit her job as a payroll clerk after she notified the state Office of Inspector General of possible payroll fraud.
The commission’s lawyer, John Feduccia, could not be reached for comment Friday. Attorney Tom Hogan, who represents both the secretary and the former payroll clerk, declined on Friday to comment on the cases.
An IG investigator met with Joy Chauvin, the secretary, after receiving a complaint in February 2014 about mismanagement at the detention center, which serves Livingston, St. Tammany, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes. The IG’s office would not disclose what prompted the meeting with Chauvin or when it took place.
Chauvin told Michael Moore, the investigator, she believed the detention center’s management thought she was the source of the IG complaint, and she was being targeted for retaliatory dismissal, according to an affidavit of probable cause for her arrest.
Moore arranged a meeting for Chauvin on Sept. 4 with a second IG investigator and commission President David M. Duke, who is also an assistant district attorney with the 22nd Judicial District, so she could voice her concerns.
“In an attempt to reassure Chauvin, who appeared anxious and very concerned, Investigator Moore and Mr. Duke both advised her that she was free to speak on whatever issues she considered relevant without any fear of retaliation whatsoever,” the affidavit states.
Chauvin told them she knew her supervisor, Joseph Dominick, director of facility management, had reviewed her work emails and learned of her contact with Moore. She insisted that she knew management was out to get her, according to the affidavit.
When the investigators pressed Chauvin as to how she knew, Chauvin said she had placed a recording device behind a picture frame in Dominick’s office, the affidavit states.
The investigators then went to Chauvin’s Mandeville home, with her permission, where they found the digital recordings and the device she had placed in her boss’s office. The recordings, made on Aug. 26 and 27, included the voices of at least three staff members, a private computer technology contractor and an unidentified person, according to the affidavit. The affidavit does not provide what was said on the tapes.
Chauvin was arrested Feb. 26 and charged in the 21st Judicial District Court in Amite with one felony count of interception of wire, electronic or oral communications. She has been released from jail and pleaded not guilty May 14.
Former payroll clerk Casey Sclafini also claims retaliation by the detention center’s management. Sclafini filed a lawsuit Feb. 2, also in Amite, saying she was forced to resign in January because her supervisors created a hostile work environment after she reported possible payroll fraud to the OIG.
Sclafini, who had been a payroll clerk with the detention center since October 2012, said in her lawsuit that she became concerned when she received a Jan. 28, 2014, memo from Dominick, the facility manager, indicating that an employee’s pay was being raised beyond the maximum rate available to him due to new accounting procedures.
Sclafini emailed the commission’s accountant, David Danel, for clarification on the new procedures.
She then met with him the following week to voice her concerns about several payroll practices she believed were fraudulent.
Danel told Sclafini to go ahead and pay everything, according to Sclafini’s lawsuit, and that he would conduct an audit and inform the commission of Sclafini’s concerns.
Steven Happel, the detention center’s director of administration, later issued Sclafini an “employee coaching letter” because she had contacted Danel without Happel’s permission, Sclafini said in her lawsuit.
Upset over the write-up and concerned she might be participating in possible payroll fraud if she followed Danel’s instruction, Sclafini contacted the IG’s Office in early February 2014.
Sclafini had spoken with her supervisors about the possible fraud more than once in February 2014.
“It seemed that the management group was saying that fraud should be reported and talked about adding it to policy,” her lawsuit states.
In one of those meetings, however, detention center Superintendent Thomas Jarlock “also made allusions that (Sclafini’s) position could be eliminated or done by someone else.”
When IG investigators contacted her in April or May 2014 for additional information, Sclafini cooperated.
Sclafini said she also participated in an “internal investigation” in July, providing information and documents to Feduccia, the commission’s attorney, without her supervisors’ knowledge.
Sclafini said Feduccia had assured her she would not suffer any adverse employment action for her participation in the investigation.
In a later conversation, Feduccia asked Sclafini if she was the whistleblower or if she knew who was, she said in her lawsuit.
Sclafini said her job description, which had never been reduced to writing before, was revised in August to include duties she had not previously performed. She was later asked to take on additional duties not included in that description and said her private office was taken away.
On Sept. 12, Sclafini was issued an employee rule violation with a recommendation for dismissal. She was accused of breaking state law for “eavesdropping,” her lawsuit states.
She resigned by email Jan. 28 and in person on Jan. 29, after taking medical leave due to job-related stress.
She is seeking undisclosed damages in the suit.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.