As an illustration of the arrogance of Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols and the Division of Administration (DOA), one need only examine the most recent “compliance” to our request for public records in the matter of former Louisiana Housing Corporation (LHC) Executive Director Frederick Tombar, III. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/04/21/frederick-tombar-a-key-jindal-appointee-resigns-260k-job-at-lhc-following-internal-investigation-of-sexual-harassment/
Even as the parties to our lawsuit against Nichols and DOA were awaiting the start of our case in District Judge Mike Caldwell’s courtroom on Monday, DOA’s legal counsel asked our attorney about our post of Sunday, May 3, in which we revealed that DOA was sitting on another request of ours. We made simultaneous requests, we explained, to DOA and to an office under DOA (LHC). The office responded with the records but DOA still had not complied nearly two weeks after our request was submitted. http://louisianavoice.com/2015/05/03/louisianavoice-v-la-doa-goes-to-trial-monday-we-need-your-help-to-defray-legal-costs-that-will-continue-on-appeal/
But don’t just take our word for it. Here is a column by Robert Mann from nearly two years ago:
The attorney for DOA, upon being told what records we had requested, promised us we would have the records on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, apparently buoyed by only a partial victory by us, DOA responded with partial compliance as some sort of weird game of gotcha.
The records we received from the LHC contained 16 pages. The records provided Tuesday by DOA contained four pages.
DOA insisted in the trial of our earlier lawsuit against DOA (also before Judge Caldwell, who, in that case, ruled against LouisianaVoice altogether—do we see a pattern here?) that we were not being singled out for deliberate non-compliance or the withholding of records despite DOA’s historically taking weeks and even months to provide requested documents.
Yet, withholding 12 pages of a public record (the LHC board, with the concurrence of legal counsel, had previously decided that the investigative report into allegations of sexual harassment against Tombar was indeed public) certainly appears to us to be deliberate—and against the law.
Here’s the gist of the investigative report:
LHC board Chairman Mayson Foster asked the DOA Office of Human Resources to conduct an investigation on April 13 into claims by two female employees (one, a contract employee and the other a full-time employee of LHC) that Tombar, who lives in New Orleans, had pressured each of them to spend nights with him in his hotel room when he was in Baton Rouge for board meetings.
(The report, as it should, withheld the names of the women and LouisianaVoice has never requested that information. We respect the employees’ privacy; we only wanted the investigative report.)
The harassment of the first employee, a contract worker, began on Nov. 19, 2014, the report said, when Tombar and the employee separately attended a luncheon for the agency. Immediately following the luncheon, he “friended” her on Facebook and Instagram and made repeated requests for her to join him after work for drinks.
The employee made excuses to avoid doing so but then his advances became even stronger as he began to request that she spend the night with him in his hotel room during his stays in Baton Rouge. Specifically, emails provided LouisianaVoice by LHC (with the name of the employee properly redacted) show that Tombar asked her to spend the night with him on Feb. 10, 2015, the night before an LHC board meeting.
Even though she was a contract employee, Tombar promised her in his emails that she would be “safe” from layoffs and then asked her again to spend the night with him on April 7, 2015.
Eventually, the woman blocked his calls and filed a formal complaint and asked that she continue working but away from Tombar.
The second woman, an employee of LHC, said she attended a conference in New Orleans on Feb. 7-9, 2015 and that on March 19, she received an email from Tombar saying he would be staying overnight in Baton Rouge and asking her to stay with him overnight in his hotel room, a request she declined.
He repeated the request on April 7 before she sought relief in the form of a formal complaint in which she said she wished to keep her job but to work “away from Mr. Tombar,” the report said.
In one Instagram message provided LouisianaVoice as part of the record, Tombar asked one of the women, “You’re cool with my having a wife at home?”
The report’s conclusion said:
- “Information gathered from claimant interviews as well as a subsequent review of electronic messages sent to both claimants by Mr. Tombar clearly establish a pattern of sexual harassment and hostile work environment. Specifically, Mr. Tombar’s declaration that (the first claimant’s) position would be protected from layoffs while (simultaneously) trying to establish a sexual relationship with her presents clear evidence of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Additionally, the use of sexually explicit content in electronic messages to LHC employees and contractors presents clear evidence of a hostile work environment.”
The report further said the women “should have been more direct and forceful” in putting Tombar on notice “that his advances were unwelcomed and unwarranted, which they acknowledged in their interviews.” At the same time, the report pointed out that the women were fearful of losing their positions because of Tombar’s position as Executive Director and Appointing Authority within LHC.
Attempts to interview Tombar by DOA’s Human Resources Department “to provide him an opportunity to refute and defend those claims” were thwarted when Tombar abruptly resigned his $260,000-a-year position on April 21, the report said.
Tombar was appointed to head LHC after passage of Senate Bill 269 by State Sen. Neil Riser in 2011. The bill, which became Act 408 upon the signature of Bobby Jindal, consolidated three former agencies into one: the Louisiana Housing Finance Agency, the Road Home Corp., and Louisiana Land Trust. That consolidation became effective on Jan. 1, 2012 and Jindal named Tombar to head the new agency shortly after that.
Tombar earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government from Notre Dame University and later attended Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where he earned a Master in Public Policy degree.
He directed the Road Home Program following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Road Home served as the largest single housing recovery program in U.S. history.
The agency has 125 employees and a payroll of more than $7.9 million. Besides Tombar, eight other employees make more than $100,000 per year, according to State Civil Service records.
In an April 6, 2015, message to one of the women, Tombar said, “Jindal has a claim to my time until 5. Any plans after are negotiable.”
The employee, in an apparent effort to put him off, responded, “Maybe next time.”
In the most explicit message provided by LHC, Tombar sent a message that gave the definition of “sunrise surprise” from the online Urban Dictionary: “To wake someone up at exactly 6 am by having rough anal sex with them.” There was no response to that message.
As for DOA’s pattern of non-compliance with our requests, our attorney has suggested that we pursue criminal charges against Nichols in addition to our civil petitions.
It’s certainly an option we’re keeping open although Attorney General Buddy (or is it Bubba) Caldwell (no relation to the judge) has certainly revealed his reluctance to pursue the interests of the citizens of this state over such mundane matters as public records.
So, it would fall to the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore.