Federal jury rejects claims against Troy Hebert
BATON ROUGE (AP) — A federal jury has rebuffed claims that Louisiana’s former alcohol and tobacco control commissioner unfairly fired one of his workers when he led the state agency.
The jury unanimously decided Monday that ex-commissioner Troy Hebert did not defame or retaliate against former agent Brette Tingle when he fired him in August 2015.
Hebert’s attorney, Edward Kohnke, told The Advocate it “was a complete victory.” He said the jury also found that Hebert did not invade Tingle’s privacy or violate his civil rights.
Tingle worked as the special agent in charge of the Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s New Orleans region. A disciplinary letter said Tingle was fired after a review of his work cellphone records revealed the veteran agent made racial and sexual comments in text messages to co-workers and threatened violence against superiors. That letter also detailed allegations of payroll fraud against Tingle.
Tingle claimed his public firing amounted to defamation, and alleged his termination was retaliation for participating as a witness in a discrimination case against Hebert.
Tingle’s lawyer, J. Arthur Smith, said he’ll try to continue pursuing the lawsuit against Hebert, seeking a retrial or new ruling. Smith said he believes, despite the jury’s vote, that using years-old phone records — which included a racial epithet — as evidence in the case was an invasion of his client’s privacy.