Louisiana AG didn’t report discipline resulting from office sexual harassment complaint

State law requires government officials to record sexual harassment discipline

By: - February 26, 2021 9:36 am
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Attorney General Jeff Landry and elected officials from other state sued over President Joe Biden’s decision to pause oil and gas leases.(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry chose not to disclose that he had to discipline one of his top deputies following a sexual harassment complaint in an annual report that tracks sexual misconduct across state government and is required by state law. 

Landry’s Department of Justice, like all other state agencies, is legally obligated to reveal how many sexual harassment complaints it fields each year and whether they resulted in any disciplinary action. His report from 2020 was due Feb. 15.

In the report, Landry said the Department of Justice, with 609 employees, had one sexual harassment complaint last year —  and the one complaint had not resulted in a finding of sexual harassment, discipline or “corrective action.”  

That information contradicts what Landry has released publicly about misconduct involving the head of his office’s criminal division, Pat Magee

Magee, as The Advocate newspaper first reported, was investigated for misconduct first in December and then disciplined in January. On Thursday, Landry’s office didn’t deny that Magee was the subject of the one sexual harassment complaint Landry referenced in his state report. 

He was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior. The Justice Department cut Magee’s salary by $20,559 this year and is requiring him to go through mandatory training to develop his “emotional intelligence, professionalism in the workplace, conflict management and leadership skills,” according to documents released by Landry’s office. 

Yet Landry stated in his report to the state that his agency had “0” incidents of discipline or corrective action related to sexual harassment complaints in 2020. 

In a statement Thursday, Landry’s office said he omitted the disciplinary action against Magee because Magee wasn’t found to have engaged in sexual harassment. 

“The independent investigation concluded that any allegations of sexual harassment were unfounded,” wrote Dennis Cory, spokesman for the Department of Justice, in an email Thursday.

But the documents released about Magee’s misconduct do not rule out sexual harassment — and at times describe behavior that could be considered sexual misconduct under state law.

The Department of Justice concluded Magee has not engaged in “requests for sexual favors, inappropriate workplace touching, nor sexual overtures,” wrote Sandra Schober, deputy director of the Administrative Services Division at the Department of Justice. 

But Magee had “inappropriate conversations with colleagues as well as with third party affiliates of the LADOJ,” Schober wrote. “The inappropriate language included using profanity, sexual slang and unprofessional comments about the appearance of employees.”

Magee’s “management style” also “includes outbursts, the use of profanity and frequent references to firing employees,” she wrote. Though he may have considered himself to be joking around, “it is reasonable to conclude that his behavior made others uncomfortable and was offensive.” 

Jill Craft, a Baton Rouge attorney who represents many people accusing government officials of sexual misconduct, said she is not personally familiar with Magee’s case, but the description of his behavior leaves the door open to sexual harassment violations.

“Under state government policy, that can constitute sexual harassment depending on the nature of the comments he made,” she said in an interview Thursday. 

The Department of Justice’s own policy says that sexual harassment includes conduct that has the “effect of unreasonably interfering with an individuals work performance creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.” 

Landry’s office also lists “humor and jokes about sex” as well as “graphic or degrading comments about an individual or his/her appearance” as examples of sexual harassment in the agency’s sexual misconduct policy.  

The details of the allegations against Magee and what triggered the sanctions are still mostly unknown. Landry refuses to release more information. He is aggressively trying to block reporter Andrea Gallo, with The Advocate, from getting additional documents about Magee  by suing her.

The state agency reports on sexual harassment are a fairly new requirement. They were part of a larger update to state government sexual harassment laws that occurred in 2018, after a top aide to Gov. John Bel Edwards was forced out of his job because of workplace sexual harassment allegations.

Starting in 2019, each state agency was required to develop their own sexual harassment policy. In 2020, each had to start submitting annual reports every February about how many sexual harassment complaints had occurred during the year; how many times sexual harassment was found to have taken place; and how many disciplinary or corrective actions were implemented as a result of those complaints. They were also required to report what percentage of their employees have completed the state mandated sexual harassment training.

About 98 percent of Department of Justice employees — 599 of 609 people – completed the mandatory sexual harassment training, which only lasts an hour for most employees, in 2020, Landry wrote in his report. 

Landry complied with the mandatory reporting requirements this year, but has resisted turning over information about sexual harassment complaints in the past. He refused to participate in an audit of sexual misconduct across state government ordered by state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, in 2019. The audit found that the state had paid $5.2 million to alleged victims of sexual harassment in state government from 2009 to 2018. 

At the time, Landry said the governor was to blame for the new focus on sexual harassment and the accompanying audit. 

“Just because the Governor appointed a habitual sexual harasser as his Deputy Chief, it does not mean our office needs to spend countless hours and precious resources scouring employment records,” Landry said at the time. 

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.