OJJ lawsuit claims retaliation

For the second time in less than two years, the Louisiana Office of Juvenile Justice and its top administrator are being accused of retaliating against an administrator at the agency for complaining about poor living conditions at youth facilities in Louisiana.

The latest accusations of “retaliatory harassment’’ were leveled against the agency, also known as OJJ, and Deputy Secretary Mary Livers by administrator John Anderson in a lawsuit filed Aug. 12 in Baton Rouge state court.

Anderson’s suit makes specific reference to a suit that former OJJ Assistant Secretary Prince Gray filed against OJJ and Livers in December 2009.

Gray alleges in his pending state court suit that his July 2009 firing was retaliation for blowing the whistle on poor living conditions at Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe.

Anderson claims in his suit that he also complained — “to no avail’’ — about “appalling conditions’’ at Swanson as well as at Jetson Center for Youth in Baker and Bridge City Center for Youth near New Orleans.

OJJ spokeswoman Jerel Giarrusso said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

Immediately after Gray was dismissed, Anderson’s suit contends, Livers warned Anderson to “keep his mouth shut about the juvenile conditions and what he knew regarding Mr. Gray’s upcoming lawsuit and his own claims.’’

Livers told Anderson in July 2009 and October 2010 “that he was not to tell the truth about the illegal conditions at the juvenile facilities,’’ the suit states.

An OJJ attorney approached Anderson in December 2010 and told Anderson he was required to sign an affidavit in connection with the Gray suit, but Anderson declined, the suit says.

Anderson claims in the suit he was being asked to state that Livers did not refuse to take action to address the situation at Swanson, and that he did not witness Livers make derogatory gender or race comments.

The lawsuits filed by Anderson and Gray allege Livers referred to them and other male employees as “little girls.’’

“He refused to sign an affidavit that was false,’’ Anderson’s attorney, Jill Craft, said Thursday.

Shortly thereafter, Anderson was reassigned to menial tasks, ordered to complete impossible job assignments under threat of termination, given unfavorable performance evaluations, denied leave time and subjected to unfounded write-ups, his suit alleges.

Anderson, who was an appointed youth services administrator at the time, was transferred back to Bridge City, the suit says.

In addition to retaliatory harassment, Anderson claims he is the victim of gender-based harassment and discrimination. He also alleges the defendants conspired to obstruct justice.

Anderson’s suit has been assigned to state District Judge Wilson Fields. State District Judge Tim Kelley is presiding over Gray’s case.

Anderson and Gray are seeking monetary damages from the state.