7 things to know about a whistleblower’s lawsuit against Attorney General Landry’s office

Landry is accused of punishing an employee who called out inappropriate behavior

By: - November 12, 2021 11:02 am

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (Image via RLDF.org).

A former, high-ranking state prosecutor filed a lawsuit last week against his former boss, Attorney General Jeff Landry, over Landry’s alleged retaliation against the prosecutor for reporting sexual misconduct

Matthew Derbes resigned from the Louisiana Department of Justice, which Landry leads, in April and shortly revealed himself to be a whistleblower who had complained about the head of the department’s criminal division, Pat Magee, mistreating women at their office.

Landry and Magee are close friends — and Landry repeatedly denied that Magee had violated  sexual misconduct policies. The attorney general continued the denials even as he cut Magee’s pay and suspended him following an investigation into Magee’s conduct.

Magee eventually left his job after the allegations against him went public. He was accused of making comments about the appearance of women working for him. He also discussed whether he would have sex with certain women who worked in the department, among other things.

Derbes said Landry forced him to quit his job as a result of Derbes complaining about Magee’s alleged inappropriate behavior and broader misconduct at the office. Derbes now works in the Orleans District Attorney’s office.

Landry could not be reached for comment about Derbes’ lawsuit. The attorney general’s office did not respond to emails and text messages Thursday evening.

Here’s some of the specific allegations included in the lawsuit:

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Derbes says Landry held back on pursuing an alleged child molester for political reasons

Derbes said his complaints about Magee weren’t the only thing that made Landry angry at him.

The prosecutor alleges in his lawsuit that Landry gave a suspected child molester, Gregory Campo Jr. of Lafayette, preferential treatment because of a personal connection Landry had with Campo’s family. Derbes said that while he was still working for the Department of Justice, he raised questions about the alleged preferential treatment.

“When [Derbes] asked about the disparate treatment of the criminal defendant to his superiors, he was advised the criminal defendant’s family had a personal connection to Mr. Landry and had a relationship with Mr. Landry such that Mr. Landry did not want the criminal defendant prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the lawsuit states.

Derbes says Landry used money meant to help fight insurance fraud for other purposes  

The lawsuit doesn’t go into too much detail about this allegation, but it says repeatedly that Derbes learned that money which was supposed to go specifically toward fighting insurance fraud was being used for some other purpose in the Department of Justice under Landry. Derbes raised questions about the practice with his superiors, according to the lawsuit.

Derbes says Landry deliberately hid documents about sexual misconduct from the media

The prosecutor alleges the Department of Justice deliberately misclassified employees’ complaints about sexual harassment from Magee  such that the department could avoid turning them over in response to a public records request from a journalist. At least one reporter had requested to look at those records in December 2020.

Derbes says Landry limited scope of investigation into Magee’s alleged misconduct

The outside law firm investigating Magee’s alleged sexual misconduct while working for Landry was restricted, according to the lawsuit. The attorney general limited the investigation “in order to favorably skew any conclusion in favor of Magee,” the lawsuit states. 


Derbes says Landry accused the prosecutor of manufacturing documents for the media

Landry and Magee accused Derbes of purposefully creating a paper trail regarding the sexual harassment complaints about Magee such that a journalist would be able to find out about the allegations, according to the lawsuit.

Derbes also alleges that Landry and others at the Department of Justice manufactured documents of complaints allegedly lodged against Derbes in order to make Derbes look like a bad employee.

The prosecutor also says Landry’s office purposefully released identifying information to the media about Derbes, that would cause a journalist to be able to identify him as the whistleblower on the allegations against Magee. 

Derbes says Landry took away Derbes’ job responsibilities

After Derbes lodged a formal complaint about conduct in the attorney general’s office with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Louisiana Commission on Human Rights, Landry removed Derbes from his job duties in retaliation, according to the lawsuit. Derbes was forced to quit his job after being put in this position, the lawsuit states. 

Derbes says Landry tried to interfere with Derbes’ ability to get a new job

The lawsuit doesn’t go into detail about this allegation but says that Landry interfered with Derbes’ “replacement employment” and attempted to get Derbes fired from a job he took after leaving the state justice department. It’s not clear whether the job referenced is Derbes’ new position with Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams.

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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator and producer of the Louisiana Illuminator podcast. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press. Julie covered state government and politics for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune for six years. She’s also covered government and politics in Missouri, Virginia and Washington D.C. Julie is a proud D.C. native and Washington Capitals hockey fan. She and her partner, Jed, live in Baton Rouge. She has two stepchildren, Quinn and Steven.

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