NewsCovering Louisiana


Whistle-blower in AG case resigns; says he's suffering retaliation

Posted at 1:31 PM, Apr 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-20 14:50:11-04

The AG employee who filed the sexual harassment complaint that led to the criminal chief's resignation has himself resigned - saying he's been targeted by his former boss by blowing the whistle.

Our media partners at The Advocate report that 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.

Also today, Attorney General Jeff Landry held a press conference today to talk about sexual harassment accusations that ended with the resignation of his criminal chief, as well as the lawsuit he filed against a reporter to avoid giving her public records about that claim.

A judge ordered him to turn over the records. Here's the latest on that situation.

The Advocate reports that 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. To read the Advocate's story - which was written by the reporter who has covered this story from the beginning and is the one who was sued by Landry - click here.

The press conference held today was announced, via email, by Landry's office on April 19.

The press conference was streamed for about 13 minutes, then was interrupted and never resumed. A couple hours later, there was a post apologizing for technical issues and promising a recording. So far, they've only posted a link to a Baton Rouge media outlet's recording of it.

For the press conference, Landry had four female employees sit with him at a table, and had them introduce themselves and list their experience with his office. Only one of them was hired while he has been AG. The others came on board during the tenure of other AGs, according to their recitation of their tenure.

After that, Landry complained about media coverage of the lawsuit and of the investigation and resignation of Pat Magee, calling some of it sensational in nature. If you'd like to see our coverage of that, click here, here, here and here.

"As a professional law firm, we do not make any practice of discussing these type of hiring processes internally or externally," Landry said. "We work to protect the rights of our employees, and we seek out a professional workplace. Our goal is to represent the people of Louisiana, irrespective of what shows up in the newspaper."

However, Landry said some things reported haven't been true and he wants to set the record straight.

Sandra Schober, who is not an attorney but the deputy director of administrative services for the AG's office, outlined how she dealt with the Magee complaints.

She said that the actions complained about did occur, but were not found to be sexual harassment, and not sufficient to create a hostile work environment. She said that someone who told the press she wasn't interviewed had been interviewed, and she complained that the media uses the term "sexual harassment" about this situation when it shouldn't be used.

Schober also spoke in detail about the original complaint, accusing the people described as victims in it as violators of department policy and procedure.

She also said that the reporting employee - who, according to her use of pronouns, is a man - did not tell the truth, either. His complaint showed he had violated office protocols and "defied" Magee's instructions, she said. She uses the word "salacious" to describe part of the complaint, and says that one of the people the reporting employee talked about was in danger of being fired because of her violations of policy and procedure. She said the reporting employee knew that.

And, Schober said that there's "no proof" that the comments in question were made, because it "is literally a he said, he said situation."

Angelique Freel, Civil Director of the Louisiana Department of Justice, said she is the one who recommended the AG's office file the suit against the Advocate reporter. She said it was based on her civil service training regarding confidentiality. She said the suit was filed to "ensure transparency" and to "protect the competing rights.... of all those involved."

She said there were "legitimate legal concerns" as to whether the document the AG's office refused to produce, and the court agreed.

Landry said he's received some "disturbing information" about another high-level AG employee. He said that employee was required to report any inappropriate comments when he heard them. He also said he learned that this employee, a man, was the subject of an investigation by another agency for impersonating a high-ranking, female state official. This happened at least five years ago, because Landry said the state official worked for a previous governor.

Landry said the AG employee created a social media account in the woman's name. He said that AG employee has resigned.

The Advocate reporter asked several questions. For instance, she asked Landry about allegations in an employee's resignation letter. Landry did not answer the question she asked, but started asking her how she got the letter, asking her to give it to him, and claiming what she asked about was not in the resignation letter he received.

Landry said he held this event to "set the record straight" and he feels the media has not covered the process properly.