By Bill Lodge
Advocate staff writer
September 21, 2012
A complaint of sexual harassment of women during the administration of former Port Allen Mayor Derek Lewis has grown into a civil lawsuit in Baton Rouge federal court by fired Assistant Chief Financial Officer Philip Mason.
Mason also alleges that he was the victim of racial discrimination on the part of current Mayor Roger Bergeron and Councilman R.J. Loupe.
Bergeron said city officials could not comment Wednesday on the court case and referred all questions to attorney Jill Craft.
“The city conducted an investigation of these allegations and found them to be false,” Craft said. “The city will vigorously defend this lawsuit, and, at the end of the day, expects to win.”
Through attorney Robert L. Campbell, Mason said in his suit that he was hired as Port Allen’s assistant chief financial officer in April 2010. Mason alleged he later witnessed Lewis sexually harass women employed by the city.
Mason also alleged that Lewis made offensive comments about Mason’s genitalia in front of other employees. Mason said Lewis told those employees “that Mason probably goes around town (having sex with) everything.”
According to Mason, “Mayor Lewis’ actions created a hostile work environment for” both Mason and women working for the city.
Lewis was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2010 on racketeering and fraud charges that stemmed from an undercover FBI investigation of corruption in several Baton Rouge-area municipalities. The probe was nicknamed Operation Blighted Officials, and it used a fictitious garbage can cleaning service, Cifer 5000, to offer bribes in return for municipal contracts.
Lewis later resigned and pleaded guilty to a charge of racketeering. He was sentenced in June to a 40-month prison term and ordered to repay $18,990 for cash and other bribes he accepted.
Mason said in his lawsuit he complained to city officials about Lewis’ alleged sexual harassment in August 2011.
Mason said he later told both Bergeron and Loupe that he wanted the chief financial officer’s post because he had been handling the responsibilities of that vacant office for the assistant’s pay since October 2010.
Lewis and Mason are black. Bergeron and Loupe are white.
Mason said in his suit that a less qualified white woman received the CFO position.
In January, Mason said in his suit, he informed Bergeron that he had filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission a complaint that Port Allen officials had retaliated against him because of his allegations.
Mason said he was fired nine days later.
The court suit is assigned to U.S. District Judge Frank J. Polozola.