Former Louisiana State Police Retirement Board employee Shelley Sebastian, who agreed to resign her position effective November 7, 2019.
Prior to some virus named COVID-19 taking over the world stage, we received numerous inquiries entailing the status of the appeal of Shelly Sebastian’s double-termination from the Louisiana State Police Retirement Board (LSPRB) last year.
We always strive to keep our subscribers informed and updated on features we present; however, Sebastian complicated that process for us by going totally incommunicado with us around late July of 2019. By that we mean Sebastian steadfastly refused to respond to emails we sent her, to texts we sent her, or to respond to any voice mail message we left her upon her never answering our phone calls to her. Given that it was Sebastian who, in late March of last year, contacted us seeking for a feature on her double-termination to be published (at the time she contacted us, her second termination was imminent), we were more than a tad frustrated at Sebastian’s sudden blatant disregard for any and all attempts we made to reach out to her.
As a result of Sebastian’s non communicative stand with us and in conformity with our dedication to keeping subscribers and visitors up-to-date on features we publish, we contacted the Louisiana State Department of Civil Service. In contacting them, we made a public records request to examine “any and all documentation pertaining to any proposed termination of Shelley Sebastian.”
We made that request via email on Thursday, March 5, 2020 at 3:51 p.m. We would like to express special appreciation to Ms. Lindsay Ruiz de Chavez, who is the Public Information Director of Louisiana Civil Service, for the following reasons: #1) she was the most courteous individual we’ve ever encountered entailing making a public records request (and we have made tons of such requests), and #2) she broke the all-time record both for thoroughness of her response and actually providing us with full access to the records at 8:48 a.m. on Friday, March 6, 2020!
That is NOT a joke! We’re not talking about providing an estimate of when the records would be available. We’re talking about her informing us that the records were READY for our review a mere 2-3 business hours after we made the request! When we met Ms. de Chavez to examine the records and told her she’d responded faster than anyone we’ve ever encountered, she said, “We strive to fulfill every public records request as quickly as possible. I take the approach that, if it’s public record, it’s public record.” In our firm opinion, the State of Louisiana could benefit greatly by having more public servants of the caliber of Ms. Lindsay Ruiz de Chavez!
When Sebastian appealed her termination, she gave every indication to us that she’d go to the proverbial wall to expose the elements of which she claimed to have first-hand knowledge demonstrating that LSPRB’s operations were riddled with corruption and underhanded dealings. She gave every indication that LSPRB could expect to spend a fortune in legal fees opposing her appeal and a likely subsequent lawsuit against LSPRB. That prompted us to, in a previous feature, supply the following brief video demonstrating the LSPRB members lamenting its legal fees pertaining to Sebastian’s appeal and mixing in a little humor from the days of Pink! Here’s a repeat of that brief video:
One minute video of LSPRB’s lamenting of $16,000 in legal fees to late April of 2019 for the Sebastian’s appeal of her termination.
Let’s now take a moment to present a table outlining every major event entailing the Sebastain terminations and appeals thereof and incorporate the documentation provided to us by the Louisiana Department of State Civil Service pursuant to our public records request:
|Date or Time Frame||Event Transpiring [bracket followed by a number indicates document highlights presented beneath table].|
|November 7, 2018||Sebastian is told she needs to undergo counseling. |
|November 13, 2018||Sebastian is ordered to undergo drug testing. |
|November 13, 2018||The venue for Sebastian's drug test is changed from on-site to off-site.|
|December 10, 2018||Sebastian receives disciplinary letter of termination with a final page offering her the option to sign a voluntary letter of resignation. |
|December 28, 2018||Sebastian receives termination letter informing her that her employment will be terminated effective January 7, 2019. |
|January 7, 2019||Sebastian's employment with the LSPRB ends at 4:30 p.m.|
|January 18, 2019||Sebastian files notice with Louisiana Civil Service of her intent to appeal her termination. |
|February 26, 2019||LSPRB rescinds its termination of Sebastian.|
|March 11, 2019||Sebastian returns to work at LSPRB, only to be informed she will do so under constant guard by a DPS officer and will be provided with zero access to office computers, office phones, or other office equipment. She is also hand-delivered a second notice of proposed termination. This letter contained far more specificity and supporting detail and documentation.|
|March 22, 2019||LSPRB acknowledges Sebastian's response to its 3/11/19 letter of proposed termination and provides notification of minor corrections contained therein.|
|March 23, 2019||Sebastian contacts Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns and informs him of the preceding details with the result being this initial 3/27/19 feature being published.|
|March 26, 2019||Sebastian is mailed an amended and finalized termination letter informing her that her services are terminated effective close of business 3/27/19.|
|April 25, 2019||Sound Off Louisiana published a feature on Sebastian's 4/8/19 19th JDC hearing entailing her Writ of Mandamus for public documents which emphasizes the inaccuracies of Felps' testimony on the stand for that hearing.|
|April 29, 2019||Sebastian files a second appeal of her termination. |
|June 21, 2019||Louisiana State Civil Services mails LSPRB a notice of possible defects to its documentation pertaining to Sebastian's termination.|
|August 2, 2019||Greg Rome enrolls at Sebastian's new attorney.|
|August 30, 2019||Louisiana State Civil Services issues its ruling on the notice of possible defects referenced on the June 21, 2019 entry above.|
|October 10, 2019||In-Person Conference scheduled for November 7, 2019 entailing Sebastain v. LSPRB.|
|November 7, 2019||Settlement reached during In-Person Conference [7 (see full hand-written settlement below)].|
[1 – Highlights of 11/7/18 letter stating need for counseling.]
Ms. Sebastian was asked to refrain from insulting Ms. Gann and making this personal.
Ms. Sebastian accused Mr. Felps of telling her that her supervisor (Kimberly Gann) has animosity toward her. Mr. Felps adamantly disagreed with Ms. Sebastian. She said that she is tired of being “bullied” and mentioned a lawsuit to which she was asked if this was a threat. Her prejudice against female supervisors was mentioned since she has expressed these views in the office, and is previously documented in other meetings with her. She was asked if “bullying” was because she is being asked to arrive at work on time and perform her duties. Note: She is late every day anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes. And this has been going on for several months. She had no answer.
[2 – Highlights of 11/13/18 order to submit to drug testing.]
If you have been prescribed “controlled dangerous substances”, and have failed to provide to us notification of these medicines and a doctor’s note assuring us that you could still carry on the duties of your position, this is a direct violation of the policy, a copy of which was given to you to review and that you signed indicating you understood the policy (copy of your signed statement is attached).
In addition, LSPRS has reasonable suspicion that you have been reporting to this office under the influence of drugs in violation of our Drug Policy. You are Instructed immediately, this morning, to submit to an on-site drug-testing. Your failure to so report will be grounds for termination of your employment.
[3 – Highlights of 12/10/18 termination / resignation letter.]
• I [Irwin Felps, Jr.] propose to discipline you because of failure to attend to your job duties timely despite numerous requests.
h) For the meeting minutes due for the October 24th  board meeting, you lied when asked whether they were done. You stated that you had only a little more to do. When we checked online, we saw the minutes were not even started. This is one of your main job duties each month, to get the minutes typed up and ready for board review.
• I [Irwin Felps, Jr.] propose to discipline you because of insubordination that you have exhibited throughout your employment, which has grown even worse, despite repeated counseling:
f) In September of 2017, Ms. Gann was very ill. You constantly inquired to me about what was wrong. This was a direct violation of Ms. Gann’s privacy rights. In addition, she was your direct supervisor. You told me that you didn’t believe that Ms. Gann was sick and would love to know what was really wrong. I advised you that you were not in a position to make such remarks and should not be digging into Ms. Gann’s medical issue.
g) In December of 2017 the system accountant wrote a check to LAPERS to purchase a set of education DVDs. You were asked and reminded twice more to pick up the DVDs and drop off the check. Several months later the system accountant made the Assistant Director aware that the check has not cleared. Upon investigation the Assistant Director discovered that the check was never delivered, and the DVDs were not purchased. Upon questioning you made many excuses as to what happened. The check was voided since it could not be located. In December of 2018 when the Director and Assistant Director were going through your desk in an effort to determine what work-related issues needed addressing in your absence, we found the check for the 2017 LAPERS DVDs in a drawer with your personal items.
j) As recently as November 7, 2018, Ms. Gann and I met with you jointly on several issues. Throughout that meeting, at least three times, I had to tell you that you must follow proper protocol, communicating with your supervisor directly (Ms. Gann) instead of circumventing her by reporting to me. You insulted Ms. Gann and made personal remarks about her at this meeting.
k) On November 13, 2018, you were asked to take an employment drug test. While your supervisor, Ms. Gann, was out of the office at an appointment, you spoke directly to me to convince me that you should not be drug tested. You threatened lawsuits, grievances, etc. Upon Ms. Gann’s return, you were antagonistic and insubordinate and would not allow your supervisor, Ms. Gann, to finish answering your question regarding the reason for the drug testing. On the way out, you advised me that you were going to sue ”her,” presumably meaning Ms. Gann. You then went by Ms. Gann’ s office and winked, saying you were going for your little test, then said, as you were leaving, that ‘”you will be sorry.”
• I [Irwin Felps, Jr.] propose to discipline you because of misuse of your work email throughout your employment, in violation of the LSPRS Email Policy:
a. On dates ranging from January 17, 2017 to February 21, 2017, you used your work email to seek quotes, ask questions, and establish insurance for Sebastian Painting Contractors, LLC. In depth communications about quotes with both Juban Insurance Group and Tyner Jeter Agency were had during this time. In addition, the work scanner was used to send in hand written application to Tyner Jeter Insurance Agency.
b. On dates ranging from April 24, 2018 to October 26, 2018, you sent estimates, quotes, invoices, change orders, product and data information sheets, and submittals to companies on behalf of Sebastian Painting Contractors, LCC. The projects in which you represented Sebastian Painting Contractors, LLC by sending estimates, quotes, invoices, change orders, product and data information sheets, and submittals include: Alex Box Stadium, Marathon Zachary, DOW St. Charles, Westlake MCC building, Shintech, and a Substation Building Extension in Carville, Louisiana.
[4 – Highlights of 12/27/18 termination letter.]
4) Your performance reviews were generally good. As stated in my Notice, Ms. Gann and I took extraordinary efforts to attempt to move you onto the proper track as an employee. We could give you raises only if you received good performance reviews. These reviews assessed your performance of job skills, not your behavior in the office. You were very capable, Ms. Sebastian, and intelligent and able to learn and perform well when you wanted to do so. This past year in particular, however, evidenced even more your unwillingness to perform well consistently. More important, your behavior has become intolerable. While you have the job skills necessary for this position, you only exercise those skills erratically, and cause much commotion in the office which has taken valuable time away from the job duties of the rest of us in dealing with your unacceptable behavior. Another example of poor performance just discovered during our investigation is the discovery of the documents attached as Exhibit A, which were all found under your printer. These should have been properly filed long ago.
[5 – Highlights of 1/18/19 notice of pending appeal.]
Ms. Sebastian was placed on suspension in November 2018 pending investigation, but no event occurred in this month to justify the request for suspension and/or drug test. The drug test obviously came back negative, because each communication received thereafter makes no mention of the results as another reason to terminate employment. If the reason Ms. Sebastian was suspended and placed on investigation stemmed from events that warranted the need of a drug test, I [Sebastian attorney Tammeral Hills] would believe this information is vital to making its decision to terminate employment. The absence of this information is telling. Due to not being able to substantiate an alleged abuse of prescription medication, Ms. Sebastian is being terminated for things that occurred in prior years. It could be assumed that the damaging allegation of the abuse of prescription medication was merely a way to terminate and/or force Ms. Sebastian to quit her job.
The request for a drug test is not in compliance with Louisiana Law nor LSPRS policy.
LSPRB: [Testing is permitted even for prescribed drugs not being used for prescribed purposes or being used by one other than the person for whom prescribed.]
It is not clear where LSPRS authority for the statement, “‘the test is permitted for prescribed drugs not being used for prescribed purposes or being used by one other than the person for whom prescribed.” This statement is not located in the LSPRS drug policy.
[LSPRB]: [We reminded you that LSPRS drug policy required you to produce evidence of any prescription drugs you were taking that could affect your job performance, and to provide to us a letter from your doctor assuring us that the prescription would not impact the performance of your job.]
This demand violates Ms. Sebastian’s right to privacy. She should not have to provide a list of her prescription medication to her employer on demand. Asking Ms. Sebastian about the prescription medications she is taking is considered a disability related inquiry under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A request for such information is generally not job related, as evidenced by Ms. Gann stated she wondered if Ms. Sebastian was ok to drive, but her job duties do not include driving. It is questionable what job aspect Ms. Gann was referring to when a drug test was demanded.
[LSPRB]: [You produced no evidence of such prescriptions.]
Ms. Sebastian does not have to produce evidence of prescription to her employer on demand. This violates her right to privacy and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
[LSPRB]: [We conducted the drug test in full compliance with your attorney’s instructions.]
Attorney Hills at no time provided instruction to any person concerning this drug test. This statement is a complete fabrication. It is unclear as to the reason LSPRS felt the need to include this false statement in an attempt to imply the request for this test was legal according to Ms. Sebastian’s attorney. I, Tammeral J. Hills can say with complete confidence and as an officer of the Court this never happened.
According to the Notice of Proposed Action, Ms. Sebastian received a letter to an onsite and offsite testing location. Ms. Sebastian expressed her concerns and was given a second location to remedy these concerns. At no point during this exchange did LSPRS alleged they consulted with Ms. Sebastian’s attorney. Likely because this allegation is false.
[6 – Highlights of 4/29/19 notice of pending appeal.]
LSPRS is silent as to the facts and circumstances that warranted a drug test and a suspension pending investigation. LSPRS increased the number of infractions against Ms. Sebastian after it had to rescind its termination to make sure Ms. Sebastian would be terminated this time. The only problem is the reasons they seek to terminate her for is personal and nothing work related. Ms. Sebastian should be allowed to come to work and do her job without the interference of a supervisor who cannot stand her and who is attempting to make her work life miserable at any cost. Ms. Sebastian does not have to be friends with her supervisor to keep her job and avoid being slandered and defamed. Ms. Sebastian should be allowed to work in a stress-free environment, free from bullying harassment and intimidation tactics that she has endured for years.
[ 7 – 11/7/19 settlement (see below).]
So, there’s how the whole Shelley Sebastian matter ended up being resolved.
We are going to conclude with a few observations:
- The preceding illustration demonstrates just how outdated and obsolete Civil Service has become. At a recent conference attended by about 150 individuals, a nationally-recognized speaker stated that Louisiana is one of the few remaining states having such a civil-service system. It is beyond absurd that an employer (in the case the LSPRB) has to jump through all these hoops to terminate an employee who, given similar conduct in private industry (particularly the negotiations being conducted for a family-owned business on LSPRB emails, etc.), would be terminated in no time flat with no recourse whatsoever!
- It’s not a wise move to make a thinly veiled threat of litigation as Sebastian is alleged to have done in essentially running a bluff. LSPRB called the obvious bluff, and she lacked even a pair of deuces to try to win the poker hand. If she made the threats of litigation (e.g. “you’ll be sorry,” etc.) as Felps/Gann allege, did she really think that utterance alone would intimidate them? Geez!
- If one plans to sue a state agency, one better have the resources to be in it for the long haul. What do we mean by that? The State of Louisiana has an almost-limitless pot of money to fight a lawsuit. That pot is called taxpayer dollars, and more than a few courtroom observers have made note of the fact that any sitting Louisiana Attorney General is more than happy to award contracts to defend state agencies to the firms known to have contributed to his (or her) campaign. Those firms have a vested interest in racking up defense costs! The plaintiff, on the other hand, at least if the many cases Sound Off Louisiana has reported upon are typical, has to hire an attorney who most often charges by the hour rather than contingency. At best, the plaintiff may be able to obtain a combination of contingency AND straight billing for hours (e.g. $100/hour + 1/3 of award). One attorney to whom we referred a gentleman contemplating suing a Louisiana State Licensing Board told the gentleman straight up that he’d certainly take the case and then informed him that his hourly billing rate is $500/hour and he’d need to remit a $15,000 retainer upfront. The gentleman making inquiry of us suddenly lost his eagerness to sue the State Board in question. Of all the cases we’ve followed, we’re aware of only one plaintiff attorney for one case who has agreed to a straight-contingency compensation. One reason for this fact is likely the fact that winning a case against a state agency is always an uphill battle. Furthermore, attempting to settle a lawsuit against a state agency often becomes a rather complicated and convoluted process entailing political alliances. Absent such a settlement without trial, the legal fees are going to mount up quickly and massively. A plaintiff better have significant (and we mean significant!) resources to compensate his (or her) attorney for representing him (her) against a state agency. Calvin Braxton, on whom we’ve reported extensively, has clearly demonstrated that he has such resources. Shelley Sebastian, on the other hand, is certainly a questionable party regarding having the resources to back up any less-than-subtle litigation threat she allegedly may have made to Felps and/or Gann. Sound Off Louisiana founder Robert Burns, having worked with Felps some 30+ years ago, is able to state that one thing Irwin Felps, Jr. is not is either naive or ill-informed. Thus, it’s a very safe assumption that Felps was cognizant of that fact even as Sebastian uttered the alleged threat. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise Burns even a little bit if Felps actually laughed off the alleged threat once Sebastian was no longer in his presence.
- If one is going to pursue litigation against a state agency, one should come to court with the cleanest hands possible, and LSPRB’s extensive documentation regarding Sebastian’s negotiations for a family-owned business demonstrates that she had anything but clean hands! If anything, she should count her blessings that a decision was made to award her back pay as illustrated in the document above. Sebastian may counter regarding “clean hands” that her accusers may have just as dirty hands or maybe even dirtier (and use the timing of the episode of “wiping” of computer hard drives to buttress her claim); however, such evidence at a termination hearing may likely be ruled inadmissible and, even if it’s true, it doesn’t excuse her behavior and instead merely serves as evidence that the ENTIRE agency is irresponsible and wasteful of taxpayer dollars and should be abolished! All of the state’s retirement systems need to be consolidated into one system and negate the need for these little fiefdoms and their internal turf wars such as those depicted above!
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