Following is the text of the speech given by the Citizens for Good Government’s Margie Seemann at the August 31, 2011 Parish Council meeting:
My name is Margie Seemann and I am Vice-Chairman of Citizens for Good Government.
The Jefferson Parish government corruption scandals, which have been under investigation for some time, have not been in the news much lately. However, on August 25th, former Asst. Parish Attorney and whistleblower Anne Marie Vandenweghe filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana against the Parish of Jefferson and former interim Parish President Steve Theriot, which very much refreshed our memory of the scandals.
There was an article about this lawsuit in today’s Times-Picayune by Rich Rainey. Although Mr. Rainey’s article didn’t name names from the lawsuit, Ms. Vandenweghe’s lawsuit does name the names of many current and former Jefferson Parish employees. Since the entire 21-page lawsuit is available online through the SLABBED website, we were able to read the entire lawsuit, which was fascinating reading indeed. Although I intend to talk about the lawsuit, I am not, however, going to name any names today.
Among the charges made in the lawsuit is that time and again Ms. Vandenweghe brought to the attention of her supervisor criminal violations of Louisana Revised Statutes and Jefferson Parish’s Code of Ordinances, such as criminal conspiracy, injuring public records, filing or maintaining false public records, forgery, payroll fraud, illegal political activities, and malfeasance, and her supervisor did nothing about it. Furthermore, no steps were taken to protect Ms. Vandenweghe from reprisal and retaliation.
For example, Ms. Vandenweghe made known to her supervisor details of the “paralegal scandal.” Some individuals had been hired as paralegals and were being carried on the payroll of the Legal Department, even though they were not actually working in the Legal Department, nor were they doing paralegal work, and they did not even have the required credentials. Ms. Vandenweghe made this information known to her immediate supervisor, who did nothing about it. However, this information later became public and it became a big scandal publicized in the media, and the paralegals were dismissed.
Another claim concerning the paralegal scandal contained in Ms. Vandenweghe’s lawsuit is that the Jefferson Parish Attorney’s Office organizational chart was illegally tampered with after a Public Records Request was received from Fox 8 news. According to Ms. Vandenweghe’s lawsuit, there was a criminal conspiracy to facilitate the alteration of public records. One alteration consisted of removing a box from the organizational chart containing the name of an infamous paralegal, whose supervisor on the unaltered chart was shown to be the individual who Ms. Vandenweghe claims illegally altered the chart.
By the way, Citizens for Good Government is in possession of copies of both the altered and unaltered Organizational Charts, which we have previously provided to individuals in our government.
As reported in Ms. Vandenweghe’s lawsuit, this paralegal scandal included such criminal acts as the alteration of public records, conspiracy to commit payroll fraud, filing or maintaining false public records, as well as malfeasance in office. Although whistleblower Ms. Vandenweghe reported this to her supervisor, he did nothing about it, and no steps were taken to protect her from reprisal and retaliation.
Ms. Vandenweghe further alleges in her l awsuit that she was retaliated against in an attempt to silence her, because of her cooperation with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She was also a victim of harassment on the job and was subjected to a HOSTILE work environment.
These are just a few of the charges made by Ms. Vandenweghe in her lawsuit. We are convinced that her charges are valid and that our Jefferson Parish government needs to settle with her and spare the taxpayers of Jefferson Parish the excessive outside legal fees required to contest her lawsuit.
We are tired of having our tax dollars wasted on legal fees to defend the indefensible. Although Ms. Vandenweghe’s lawsuit last October to retrieve her work emails was dismissed by Judge LaDart last October, her appeal of this decision was successful, since last May Judge LaDart’s decision was reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. Unfortunately Jefferson Parish is apparently wasting some more taxpayer money appealing this 3-0 court decision to the LA Supreme Court.
We ask our Parish government to please stop wasting our tax dollars on excessive outside legal fees for indefensible lawsuits, and settle with Ms. Vandenweghe. We believe that she has been treated extremely unfairly by our government, while she should have been honored and appreciated for being a whistleblower.