Whistleblower suit against St. Tammany Coroner’s Office dismissed
Robert Rhoden of The Times-Picayune reports that a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a woman who was fired by then-St. Tammany Parish Coroner Peter Galvan in 2009 has been thrown out of court. State Judge Reginald T. Badeaux III in Covington granted the request by attorneys for Galvan and the coroner’s office, saying plaintiff Laura King failed to prove her case.
Each party will be responsible for their own legal fees, Badeaux said in his ruling Thursday (May 26). The judge had taken the case under study after a hearing was held April 26 (NOLA.com).
Preston said the coroner’s office spent some $667,000 on legal bills since the suit was filed, though not all of that was directly related to the lawsuit. King’s attorney, Al Robert Jr., said it was “disappointing” the court ruled before his client could obtain the testimony of two former coroner’s office employees who invoked their Fifth Amendment rights at their depositions. Robert was referring to former chief investigator Mark Lombard and chief financial officer Kim Kelly who await trial on state charges of being principals to felony theft in connection with the scandal that sent Galvan to prison. Both have pleaded not guilty (NOLA.com).
King in 2010 sued the coroner’s office and Galvan, as coroner and individually, saying she was fired because she refused to buy a laptop computer for the then-executive director of the coroner’s office using grant money specifically earmarked for other purposes. The suit said King told officials in the coroner’s office that using the money for the executive director’s laptop would be illegal. A week later, Galvan and others retaliated against her, terminating her employment, she claimed in the suit (NOLA.com).
The lawsuit also accused Galvan of sexually harassing female employees and improperly using taxpayer dollars to pay for parties for coroner’s office personnel.
In its motion to have the suit thrown out, the coroner’s office said King was terminated because of problems ranging from insubordination to poor work performance. The coroner’s office said she was never asked to spend grant money inappropriately, and none was spent in violation of the law (NOLA.com).
In his ruling, Badeaux said King did not show that a violation of law occurred regarding the laptop computer. She also did not disclose any illegal or unethical activities of Galvan and the coroner’s office in accordance with the whistleblower law, he said (NOLA.com).
King did not provide evidence of sexual harassment by Galvan, Badeaux ruled.
Attorney Charles Branton, who represented Galvan, said, “I’m obviously pleased with the ruling. There was just no evidence whatsoever that there was a whistleblower claim. For all parties involved, it’s time to move on” (NOLA.com).
Galvan resigned as coroner in the fall of 2013 and later pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges as well as state theft charges. He served both federal and state sentences and was released Monday morning (May 30) (NOLA.com).
See the full article here.
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