Assistant Attorney General Matthew Derbes has resigned from Attorney General Jeff Landry's office after he said that Landry has targeted him for blowing the whistle on sexual harassment from former criminal division director Pat Magee, among other issues.
Landry called a news conference Tuesday in which he defended his actions in the Magee case. Magee resigned after a second sexual harassment complaint was filed against him last month. But Derbes, who penned the initial complaint, said in his April 19 resignation letter that he could no longer withstand the retaliation that he faced for coming forward.
"My sincerest hope was that the sexual harassment and my other reports would be addressed fully, fairly and without retaliation," he wrote. "Instead, this office has targeted me and those who had the courage to stand up."
Flanked by a cadre of women who work for him, state Attorney General Jeff Landry spent much of an hourlong news conference Tuesday trying to p…
Derbes' attorney, Jill Craft, said Tuesday that Derbes filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging discrimination in the workplace, and that Landry had been notified of it. Filing that kind of charge is the first step necessary to file lawsuits on retaliation and employment discrimination.
"It’s a shame that Mr. Landry and his office have decided to target the whistleblower," Craft said. "Mr. Derbes is a person of true character."
Landry repeatedly said that he would not use the term "whistleblower" about anybody involved in the Magee sexual harassment case. He instead attacked the employee who complained about Magee's misconduct without naming him, saying the employee should have reported something sooner. At the same time, Landry insisted that Magee's actions did not rise to the level of sexual harassment.
Derbes wrote in his resignation letter, however, that Magee's behavior was "offensive, harmful to our female staff, and was open, obvious and pervasive in the workplace." And he wrote that it went on for as long as it did because Magee constantly threatened employees with termination, citing his close relationship to Landry, and employees were fearful of retaliation.
Craft said that Derbes also remained in his position two years ago at Landry's behest, only agreeing to do so if Landry gave 10 percent pay raises to female attorneys in his office who were underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts.
Landry did not name Derbes during his news conference Tuesday, nor would he confirm that an employee his office singled out was the same employee who resigned this week. But Landry alleged that a high-ranking member of his office's criminal division was not a credible source of information because the employee was previously investigated by another state agency on a claim that he impersonated a state official.
When an employee in Attorney General Jeff Landry’s office filed a complaint last year alleging that a top deputy sexually harassed women in th…
Craft said Landry was referencing a joke social media post that Derbes made 10 years ago about an official in former Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.
“The results of the situation were handled more than 10 years ago” Craft said. “The fact that Landry brings it up now just shows the level of desperation he’s going to sink to in order to deflect from his own responsibility.”
Landry also alleged that his office had uncovered texts from the same employee that were sexist in nature, but Landry said they would not release any documentation of them because of potential lawsuits.
Two months after Attorney General Jeff Landry filed a lawsuit to prevent records about sexual harassment accusations against one of his top em…
Derbes wrote in his resignation letter that Magee's actions were not the only problem he complained about in Landry's office. Another instance that he said prompted him to come forward was "preferential treatment" for a "politically connected" person who faced 20 counts of child pornography involving juveniles under age 13.
Asked about that allegation at his news conference Tuesday, Landry instead questioned a reporter about how she had seen a copy of the resignation letter, given that his office had not released it. He said he had not seen those allegations in the resignation letter, but Craft said that it was hand-delivered to Landry on Monday.
Derbes also said that he'd also raised red flags over the way that Landry's insurance fraud support unit was spending money that under state law was supposed to be dedicated to specific positions, and alleged that administrators had been "illegally manipulating this fund for years."
A man who says he was just joking when accused of sexual harassment might mislead you about other things, too.
He said that Landry's office declined to promote him last month because of his actions related to the Magee case, and instead was "effectively demoted."
When Landry's office released a memo that targeted Derbes directly, saying they were opening an internal investigation into him, he believed that it "directly threatened" his job. Craft said he looks forward to "continuing his career where equal justice under the law means something."
"The statements contained in that memorandum and the timing/manner of its release were clearly designed to cause me personal and professional harm," Derbes wrote. "Rather than supporting employees who follow this office's policy and the law, it is readily apparent to me that this office is retaliating against me as a whistleblower."