Supporters of Good Government:
You may have noticed in Saturday’s Times-Picayune that ex-Assistant Jefferson Parish Attorney Anne Marie Vandenweghe “has struck an arrangement with the parish attorney’s office to have her emails and a copy of the hard drive of her work computer returned to her,” according to her attorney, Bobby Truitt. This article may be viewed on nola.com.
Before she was terminated in November 2010, Ms. Vandenweghe had to work for six months without being permitted access to her workplace computer or emails which she had generated and received in conjunction with her job running the Public Records Department. She therefore filed a lawsuit in October 2010 against our Jefferson Parish government in an effort to regain her old computer and emails.
At the November 3rd, 2010 Jefferson Parish Council meeting, Citizens for Good Government Vice-Chairman Margie Seemann expressed our outrage that instead of settling with Ms. Vandenweghe and giving her back her computer and emails, our government chose to waste a huge amount of taxpayer dollars on the expensive outside legal firm, Phelps Dunbar, to defend this indefensible action of our government.
At the August 31st, 2011 Council meeting, Margie again said that we are tired of having our tax dollars wasted on legal fees to defend the indefensible concerning this lawsuit. Although Ms. Vandendweghe’s October 2010 lawsuit to retrieve her work emails was dismissed by Judge LaDart, her appeal of this decision was successful. Jefferson Parish therefore had no choice but to finally return Ms. Vandenweghe’s emails to her, but only after six more months of legal fees to Phelps Dunbar. Why didn’t our government just give Ms. Vandenweghe her emails and spare us the excessive amount of legal fees we have paid, in addition to the settlement they will have to pay her?
Since the Times-Picayune article also stated that “Vandenweghe and Parish Attorney Deborah Foshee are negotiating settlements to Vandenweghe’s lawsuits against the parish filed in state and federal courts,” we are hopeful that this indicates that our government is also going to settle Ms. Vandenweghe’s whistleblower lawsuit against the Parish of Jefferson and former interim Parish President Steve Theriot, which was filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana on August 25th, 2011.
Among the charges made in Ms. Vandenweghe’s whistleblower lawsuit is that time and again she 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 whistleblower Ms. Vandenweghe from reprisal and retaliation.
For example, she made known to her supervisor details of the “paralegal scandal.” As everyone now knows, 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 became a big scandal, and the paralegals were dismissed.
Of course, Ms. Karen Parker Broussard is a so-called paralegal who was indicted and on January 17th, 2012 plead guilty to misprision of a felony because she failed to report the crime of payroll fraud with respect to her paralegal supervisor position with Jefferson Parish. Ms. Vandenweghe reported this felony, but others didn’t.
Although we would be very interested in viewing a trial of this whistleblower lawsuit, we just don’t want any more taxpayer dollars wasted on outside legal fees and additional settlement fees on a futile lawsuit defending the indefensible.
Vice-Chairman, Citizens for Good Government