A Baton Rouge judge stopped short Monday of dismissing a former state agency head's claims that she was retaliated against for blowing the whistle on illegal campaign contributions.
State District Judge William Morvant said Cathy Derbonne's lawsuit, filed against the State Police Commission in January 2018, is "lacking" but he gave her attorney 30 days to amend the suit. Derbonne, once the commission's executive director, claims in the suit that she was forced to resign after exposing illegal campaign contributions made by commission members and others.
The former executive director of the State Police Commission filed a lawsuit this week claiming she was retaliated against for challenging Sta…
“He gave us a roadmap of what he wants to see in the petition,” Jill Craft, who represents Derbonne, said outside the judge’s courtroom.
State Police Commission lawyer Christine Keenan argued during a hearing Monday that Morvant should dismiss the suit because it does not allege a violation of state law by Derbonne’s former employer, the commission.
Derbonne, who headed the commission for eight years, claims she had no choice but to resign in January 2017 due to retaliation for calling attention to improper political contributions made by three commission members who ended up resigning.
The improper donations have drawn the attention of federal investigators.
Keenan argued the personal activity of some then-commission members does not involve any illegal conduct by the commission.
“What’s alleged in the petition does not state a violation of state law by her employer, the State Police Commission,” she told the judge.
Morvant said the suit, in its current form, contains no allegations of violations of state law by the commission.
“I agree that the petition is lacking,” he said.
Shortly before she resigned, Derbonne has said she received an anonymous letter warning of "an emerging plot" to remove her from her post.
The executive director of the Louisiana State Police Commission abruptly resigned Thursday, convinced the commission's board was about to fire…
Craft argued that the harassment of Derbonne began as soon as she reported the illegal campaign contributions in December 2015 “and didn’t stop.”
Derbonne stepped down after commissioners threatened to humiliate her at a public meeting, Craft added.
“That is the classic definition of constructive discharge,” she told Morvant.
Derbonne’s suit alleges she was harassed and “constructively discharged in reprisal” for her attempts to shed light on wrongdoing on the commission.
She also claims she fell out of favor with the Louisiana State Troopers Association after that group was accused of using a straw donor to give thousands of dollars to seven political candidates and the House Democratic Campaign Committee.
The troopers association was fined $5,000 in January 2017 by the state Ethics Board.
Derbonne is seeking back pay and benefits for “loss of earning capacity, humiliation and embarrassment, severe emotional distress and mental anguish.”
The State Police Commission is the civil service board for state troopers.
The longest-serving member of the Louisiana State Police Commission stepped down Thursday, leaving the commission with its second vacancy in a…