Leslie Ricard Chambers

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry

Two months after Attorney General Jeff Landry filed a lawsuit to prevent records about sexual harassment accusations against one of his top employees from becoming public, his office has released a new memo that targets the whistleblower who filed the original complaint.

Sandra Schober, deputy director of Landry’s administrative services division, sent her boss a memo, dated April 7, that explains how the office handled the complaint against former criminal division Director Pat Magee.

It’s unclear what prompted Schober to write the new memo, given that nearly three months have passed since the Attorney General’s Office wrapped up its investigation into Magee, who resigned last month after the office received a second sexual harassment complaint.

But the memo takes clear aim at the whistleblower, who filed a formal complaint about Magee’s behavior in November of last year. That complaint alleged that Magee often harassed women in his office and affected their career paths, suggesting that one woman be assigned to a criminal trial “because male jurors would want to have sex with her” and declining to promote another because her attractive looks might cause Magee to lose his self-control.

Landry’s office hired the law firm Taylor Porter to investigate the complaint. The investigation found that Magee's actions made others uncomfortable but did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.

How that conclusion was reached remains unknown: Landry’s office has only released heavily redacted results of the Taylor Porter investigation. Those documents remain at issue in a lawsuit that Landry filed against a reporter for The Advocate | The Times-Picayune who requested copies of them. A judge last month ordered his office to turn over all relevant records, with names redacted to protect the privacy of victims, witnesses and whistleblowers. 

Landry's office did not answer detailed questions Thursday about the purpose of Schober's memo, what led to its production and whether it was meant to make a case for firing the whistleblower.

Landry's spokesman, Cory Dennis, only said that his office produced the document because it was a public record. 

The memo contains several curious assertions. While Landry’s office eventually concluded that Magee himself did not engage in sexual harassment, Schober's memo suggests that the whistleblower who came forward about Magee could be in violation of the office’s sexual harassment policy, based on his failure to report Magee’s misbehavior.

Magee has denied ever committing sexual harassment and has said that he does not condone it.

Schober also wrote that she had reviewed text messages between Magee and the whistleblower, provided by Magee, and that some of the whistleblower’s texts were questionable.

“These texts were sent by (name redacted) to Pat and a determination needs to be made if these text messages violate our professionalism and integrity policy, and if these may also constitute sexual harassment, albeit the potential victims are likely unaware of their existence,” she wrote.

“In addition, it is also a violation of our Sexual Harassment policy for a supervisor not to report inappropriate behavior in a timely manner and the complainant knew about the alleged inappropriate behavior for years before finally reporting it to me,” she added.

Schober’s memo makes clear that the complainant is a man, and it more or less identifies him by specifying the job he holds. In his initial complaint, the employee expressed fear that Landry’s office would retaliate against him for coming forward.

“You constantly wonder what will happen if and when you finally have the courage to come forward,” the employee wrote. “This is especially true when the person you need to report reminds you over and over how he is close personal friends with the Attorney General. This is not Walmart, this is the Louisiana Department of Justice and when someone is close friends with the most powerful law enforcement officer in Louisiana, coming forward is not an easy decision.”

The employee who is believed to have written the complaint did not respond Thursday to an email sent to his work account. 

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While the complainant now appears to be in Landry's crosshairs, Landry cited the need to protect whistleblowers and victims as justification for suing a reporter who sought records related to the matter. The attorney general's lawyers argued then that providing the records would discourage other employees from coming forward about cases of sexual harassment. 

Kevin Vogeltanz, an employment and discrimination attorney based in Mandeville, said the new memo is likely to have exactly such a discouraging effect.

"I would think that opening an internal investigation against a whistleblower, just to punish that person for complaining about illegal discrimination or harassment, could certainly chill other workers from coming forward about similar misconduct in the future," Vogeltanz said.

Schober's memo analyzed four instances of alleged sexual harassment reported by the whistleblower; she disagreed in some cases with the whistleblower's view of what took place. For instance, she insisted that the woman whom Magee allegedly declined to promote because of her good looks actually had “numerous work-related issues” that disqualified her for the role.

She also defended Magee over the complaint that alleged he called one attorney “old and ugly.” The complainant said Magee suggested using a younger, more attractive attorney whom Magee described as “f---able” on a case, in place of the older woman.

Again, Schober wrote that the attorney who Magee allegedly described as “old and ugly” was under review for “potential policy violations,” adding that it was reasonable to conclude that Magee did not place her on a high-profile case because of those. She also argued that Magee did not generally discriminate against older employees, citing as evidence that half of the attorneys Magee hired were age 40 and older.

While Schober called for more review into whether Magee made the alleged comments, it's not clear if such a review is occurring. But her memo indicates that she did not regard most of the whistleblower's assertions credible.

“The speculations included in the initial grievance complaint were false as there was evidence to the contrary,” she wrote.

Schober’s memo goes on to say that a “confidential informant” recently came forward and told her that the whistleblower was known to have falsified information in the past. Most of that section of the memo is redacted.

Schober's memo said there was nothing in the whistleblower’s file about such an allegation. But she added that “due to the pattern within this matter for misrepresenting information, we … are in the process of investigating this matter further to determine if (name redacted) lacks the requisite judgment, honesty, and integrity required of all LADOJ personnel.”

Even if the whistleblower were found to have engaged in some misconduct, Vogeltanz said, it might not protect the Attorney General's Office from a claim of retaliation, which is outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

"Ultimately, the legal issue is not whether one of Mr. Landry's employees committed some wrongdoing in the past that might otherwise warrant investigation," Vogeltanz said. "The issue is whether Mr. Landry's office is investigating a whistleblower just to punish him for complaining about illegal discrimination or harassment. If so, that action is retaliatory and illegal under Title VII."

Bill Corbett, a labor and employment law expert at LSU's Paul M. Hebert Law Center, said Thursday that a few laws could come into play regarding the whistleblower's treatment. He also cited Title VII, as well as the state's whistleblower law and the state's Code of Governmental Ethics, which also includes a whistleblower statute. 

An important question in Title VII cases is what prompted an employer to take adverse action against an employee, he said. 

"The whistleblower is saying, 'It’s because I engaged in protected conduct,'" Corbett said. "Maybe the employer’s position is, 'No, that’s not why there’s adverse action; it’s because you failed to follow reporting procedures.'"

Investigative reporting is more essential than ever, which is why we’ve established the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund, a non-profit supported by our readers.

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