When LouisianaVoice attempted through a public records request to obtain an unredacted version of the disciplinary records of a trooper in State Police Troop D, our request was denied. Louisiana State Police Attorney Supervisor Michele Giroir explained that the individual’s rights to privacy outweighed the public’s right to know.
Specifically, her letter of Aug. 18 said:
- The Department has reviewed your request. It remains the Department’s position that you are not entitled to review the redacted information. The individuals’ rights to privacy established by Article 1, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, as amended, outweigh the public’s right to know the personal information in this matter….The substance of the matter is personal in nature and not related to (the trooper’s) duties as a state trooper. The information that you reviewed in the letter (in the redacted document we were provided) contains the substance of the conduct for which (the trooper) was disciplined as it related to his duties as state trooper. Providing further information would violate the involved parties’ rights to privacy.
Her decision left us disappointed but at the same time, we understand there are certain rights to privacy that must be upheld.
Apparently Troy Hebert did not get the memo. And now he is being sued for making just such private information public.
Moreover, it appears he may have violated an order from a Civil Service hearing referee not to discuss the matter with anyone, “including the media.”
Actually, his actions only provided cause for the filing of an amendment to a lawsuit already filed in Federal District Court in Baton Rouge over Hebert’s retaliation against former ATC agent Brette Tingle.
One day after Giroir’s letter, on Aug. 19, Hebert, Director of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC), issued a news release that was disseminated widely over television and print media in which Hebert leaked the contents of private cell phone text messages and emails.
Though Tingle’s communications on his state-issued cell phone contained sexually and racially-charged messages, the messages were to friends and family members, some of them African-American. Such messages are considered private under the Louisiana Constitution, as Giroir said in her letter. Moreover, LouisianaVoice learned in interviewing two African-American agents that some of the racial remarks were made to them but were said in jest. “I say some of the same things he said,” said one African-American agent, a female. “We joke back and forth with each other that way.”
Another African-American who worked with Tingle, Larry Hingle, said he understood the context in which Tingle’s messages were made and that he had no problem with him.
Tingle, in fact, contends that Hebert’s vendetta against him stems from his (Tingle’s) testimony on behalf of Charles Gilmore, one of three African-American ATC agents who filed Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints against Hebert. The three, Gilmore, Hingle, and Daimian T. McDowell subsequently filed suit against Hebert in Baton Rouge Federal District Court. http://louisianavoice.com/2014/07/14/forcing-grown-men-to-write-lines-overnight-transfers-other-bizarre-actions-by-troy-hebert-culminate-in-federal-lawsuit/
In his amended lawsuit, Tingle cites the same Article 1, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution which says, “Every person shall be secure in his person, property, communications, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches, seizures, or invasions of privacy.” That pretty much tracks the Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.
The search and seizure of the text messages in this case was (sic) unreasonable because, at the search’s inception, there was (sic) no reasonable grounds to believe that the search would reveal any employee misconduct and because Troy Hebert provoked this search in bad faith, in an arbitrary and maximally intrusive manner, and in retaliation for Brette Tingle’s exercise of protected activity,” Tingle says in his amended petition.
“The plaintiff (Tingle) never consented to Troy Hebert or anybody else searching his private text messages with his friends and family in an intrusive fishing expedition to search for any evidence that Troy Hebert could try to use to avoid the consequences of his overt race discrimination against African-American employees by discrediting Brette Tingle as a witness,” it said.
Moreover, the petition says, Hebert laid out false allegations of payroll fraud against Tingle in his news releases “even though an extensive investigation by the Louisiana Office of Inspector General (OIG) had found no probable cause for the payroll fraud accusation…”
(Both Hebert and the OIG’s Inspector General are appointed by the governor.)
Even more egregious, Tingle says, Hebert read Tingle’s communications aloud to 12 female ATC employees on Aug. 21.
“The extracts of these conversation, which were widely publicized by Troy Hebert, constitute defamation by innuendo and the embarrassing disclosure of personal and private facts,” the petition says. “This is particularly so since these alleged conversations have nothing whatsoever to do with Brette Tingle’s job performance and thus, Troy Hebert had no legitimate interest in publicly broadcasting these alleged private conversations.”
Hebert even hinted that Tingle may have been guilty of setting fire to Hebert’s state vehicle, Tingle said. “In an interview with a New Orleans news outlet, WVUE-TV, on Aug. 19, Troy Hebert…stated that if a person was (sic) to ‘connect the dots,’ it would be clear who vandalized the vehicle.
“While it is apparently true that Troy’s vehicle had been set on fire, Troy Hebert had no evidence that the plaintiff had committed this crime,” Tingle said. “Troy Hebert did know, or certainly should have known, that the temporal proximity of his statements and the termination of the plaintiff carried false and defamatory implications.”
The petition said the communications from his cellphone were “taken out of context and do not accurately reflect Brette Tingle’s attitudes toward persons of color.” He said he is “well-respected” by persons of color for his “fair-minded attitudes and conduct. Indeed, it is only because Brette Tingle took a firm and courageous stand against Troy Hebert’s race discrimination and retaliation against former fellow employees that Troy Hebert has gone to great lengths to destroy his (Tingle’s) career and reputation,” it said.
We at LouisianaVoice have followed Troy Hebert’s ham-handed manner of running his agency since he was named to replace Murphy Painter who was fired on bogus charges by the Jindal administration.
If there is anything that can be said of Hebert, it’s that he appears to be as inept and clueless as his boss. He has managed to run a once-fine investigative agency into the ground with his petty insistence on requiring agents rise and greet him with an enthusiastic “Good morning, Commissioner” upon his entering a room. We were dismayed to learn that he has forced agents, fully grown adults, to literally write lines. We were incredulous when he ordered Gilmore transferred from Baton Rouge to Shreveport literally overnight with no opportunity for him to make plans for such a move. And we were shocked to the point of disbelief upon learning that he had ordered a female agent to return to a New Orleans bar in full uniform—after she had purchased drugs while working as a plainclothes undercover agent in that same bar only days before.
We were puzzled when Jindal snatched him from the Legislature to serve as the top enforcement agent for ATC with no qualifications other than the fact that his wife is the Jindals’ children’s pediatrician.
But now, somehow we are unable to be shocked at anything this man does. Apparently no underhanded tactic is beneath him—even when it comes to violating the same State Constitution that the chief legal counsel for the Louisiana State Police was sufficiently cognizant to uphold in denying our access to personal records.
Hebert apparently has no problem violating a direct order from a Civil Service hearing referee who presided over an appeal of Tingle’s firing in July. The referee was quite specific in admonishing witnesses not to discuss the Tingle matter “with each other or anyone else, including the media.” That order was issued when Tingle’s hearing was continued by the referee who said a violation of her dictum “could result in disciplinary action, including dismissal” from their jobs. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/07/10/civil-service-hearing-for-fired-atc-agent-continued-to-sept-after-settlement-talks-break-down-troy-didnt-want-us-there/
In an otherwise competent, transparent and ethical administration, we would have expected Hebert to have been fired months ago. Under the Jindal administration, we harbor no such hope. In fact, Jindal did quite the opposite in naming Hebert his office’s legislative liaison.