Garig v. Travis, CIVIL ACTION NO. 20-654-JWD-RLB

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Middle District of Louisiana
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 20-654-JWD-RLB
Decision Date30 June 2021




June 30, 2021


This matter comes before the Court on five motions to dismiss. The first Motion to Dimiss [sic] Under FRCP 12(b)(6) for Failure to State a Claim Against Susan L. Guillory, in her Official Capacity as Town Clerk for the Village of Wilson (Doc. 8) ("Town MTD") was filed by Defendant Susan L. Guillory ("Guillory" or "Town Clerk"), in her official capacity as Town Clerk for the Village of Wilson. The second Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 12) ("T&P MTD") was filed by Defendants Jeffery Travis in his official capacity as Sheriff of East Feliciana Parish, and individually, and former Chief Deputy Greg Phares in his official capacity, and individually (collectively, the "Sheriff Defendants"). The third Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 20) ("Cox MTD") was filed by Defendant William "Bill" Cox ("Cox"), in both his official and individual capacities. Plaintiff Tammy Lee Garig ("Plaintiff") filed a consolidated opposition to these three motions. (Doc. 32.) The above-named Defendants (sometimes collectively referred to as the "Village Defendants") filed individual replies. (Docs. 35, 36, 37.)

The fourth Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 4(m) (Doc. 22) ("AG MTD I") was filed by Defendant Attorney General Jeff Landry (the "Attorney General"). Despite being given an extension of time to respond to this motion (see Docs. 22, 31), Plaintiff did not file an opposition. However, the Attorney General filed a reply. (Doc. 34.) The fifth is Defendant Attorney General Jeff Landry's Rule 12(b)(1) Motion and Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss (Doc. 40) ("AG

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MTD II"), which was also filed by the Attorney General. Plaintiff filed an opposition (Doc. 44), and the Attorney General has not filed a reply.

Oral argument is not necessary. The Court has carefully considered the law, facts in the record, and arguments and submissions of the parties and is prepared to rule.

As will be discussed in more detail below, the Town MTD, T&P MTD, Cox MTD, and the AG MTD II are granted because Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v. Humphrey. The AG MTD I, however, is denied.

I. Relevant Factual Background

A. Introduction

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint ("Compl."), Doc. 1. They are assumed to be true for purposes of this motion. Thompson v. City of Waco, Tex., 764 F.3d 500, 502-03 (5th Cir. 2014).

Plaintiff in this action is Tammy Lee Garig. (Compl. ¶ 3, Doc. 1.)

Defendants in this case are: (1) Jeffery Travis, Sheriff of East Feliciana Parish, sued in his individual and official capacity; (2) Greg Phares, former Chief Deputy of East Feliciana Parish, sued in his individual and official capacity; (3) William "Bill" Cox, an Investigator with the Louisiana State Police, sued in his individual and official capacity; (4) Susan L. Guillory, Town Clerk for the Village of Wilson, sued in her official capacity; and (5) Jeff Landry, head of the Louisiana Office of the Attorney General, "who has the duty to investigate the collusion of the public bodies of the State of Louisiana." (Id. ¶ 3.) The Attorney General is sued in his official capacity. (Id.)

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B. Facts Giving Rise to Suit

Plaintiff begins the operative complaint by declaring that she has "been the subject [sic] collusion of public officials and actors." (Compl., Doc. 1 at 2.)

Plaintiff began her employment with the Village of Wilson Police Department in January 2012, working as a part time police clerk. (Id.) Her position later became full time as she assumed additional duties including "bringing [the Mayor and Board of Alderman] up to date on policy and procedures, organizing their ordinances and writ[ing] grants, as well [as] continu[ing] [her] duties in the Police Department." (Id. at 3.) She also stepped into the position of Town Clerk in 2016 when the sitting Town Clerk was "displaced in the flood, and abandoned her job." (Id. at 4.)

Plaintiff alleges that she found large amounts of money in different areas of the office and that she noted several discrepancies in accounts. (Id.) After reviewing files, reports, and deposits, Plaintiff discovered that "a large amount of funds were missing." (Id.) She notified the Mayor and the Police Chief, who instructed her to continue obtaining information for an investigation. (Id. at 4-5.)

Plaintiff alleges that the town's annual Legislative Audit, which was completed in April of 2017, noted some inconsistencies. (Id. at 5.) The CPA verbally reported these inconsistencies to the town council and advised that he had filed a report with the town's insurer in the hopes of recouping some of the alleged missing funds. (Id.) Plaintiff further alleges:

Phares made the decision not to file charges, and did not provide a written report that could be submitted to the towns bond insurance. Phares stated the town had no internal controls. It was shown, in writing, that over 40,000.00 was missing in the time span the previous clerk was employed and gaining a fuel card in her name, making trips out of state to Texas to visit her father.

Requests were made to have Louisiana State Police and Attorney General's office conduct an investigation, Phares managed to make contact with those agencies advising he would handle it. Yet he still refused our request, regarding a written report.

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sic throughout] (Id.)1

In November of 2017, Plaintiff avers that she approached Phares with the new audit findings. (Id. at 7.) However, he still advised Sheriff Travis that no charges should be brought, despite notification by the Legislative Auditor that funds were missing. (Id.) According to the Complaint, Phares made calls to the Attorney General and the Legislative Auditor's office "to stop them from coming to conduct their own investigation." (Id.)

In August of 2018, the Village of Wilson entered a contract with LWS Solutions to serve as the Village's accountant. (Id.) A Second Legislative Audit for 2016 was also conducted, which noted that there were missing funds and that additional policies were needed. (Id. at 7-8.)

Plaintiff alleges that after receiving the Second Audit report, "the Auditor advised the Sheriff of her findings, in hopes he would have his office conduct [an] investigation." (Id. at 8.) But again, Phares, acting on Sheriff Travis's behalf, refused. (Id.)

In March of 2019, the Village's CPA firm, LWS Solutions, began processing employee payroll. (Id.) Plaintiff represents that this change was due to the Town Clerk's continued issues with properly documenting and paying employees. (Id.) Despite this change, the Town Clerk still "caused issues with payroll not being correct when received by the CPA." (Id.) For example, the Town Clerk continued to keep employee timesheets wherein she documented each employee's absences and daily hours. (Id. at 8-9.) Plaintiff alleges that she would then take the payroll sheets to the Mayor for her approval even though Village employees had not seen nor signed the timesheets. (Id. at 9.)

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In August of 2019, Plaintiff "received an email from [the CPA] and the Town Clerk that there was a problem with [her] leave usage in quick-books, [her] accrued compensatory time had not been entered and [her] regular leave wasn't rolling over, due to [the] Town Clerk failing to report it correctly." (Id.) Plaintiff then notified the "CPA, [the] Town Clerk, [the] Mayor and [her] supervisor" that she would submit her own time sheet. (Id.)

In September of 2019, Plaintiff was asked by the CPA to review previously submitted timesheets of Village employees. (Id.) She allegedly identified that the Town Clerk was not following the policies and procedures for timesheets:

Town Clerk was only writing the daily hours down, not hours in and out. After the Clerk had the Mayor sign timesheets she took them to the CPA for payroll processing. The Town Clerk failed to issue payroll stubs to employees.

In reviewing the timesheets, I was only looking for the pay period date discrepancies I was not asked nor did I look at employee time or leave usage to verify for correctness. As I came across my time sheets, I submitted missing supporting documents, as well signed my time sheets. I made the mistake of back dating time sheets, which should have had the actual date I signed.

[sic throughout] (Id. at 9-10.)

C. Criminal Charges

1. Investigation

On October 23, 2019, Phares and "another man (Bill Cox)" visited the Mayor. (Compl., Doc. 1 at 11.) Phares asked to see Plaintiff's timesheets because Plaintiff allegedly worked a "movie detail and [did] not tak[e] leave." (Id.) The Town Clerk then gave Phares copies of Plaintiff's timesheets, even though "a warrant . . . was not presented." (Id.)

On November 8, 2019, Plaintiff received a phone call from Cox, who informed Plaintiff that he was looking at her leave and her work on the movie detail:

He stated he knew I was in Clinton on a July 24, I ask him how he knew that, stated my phone records indicate I was in Wilson that morning for a period of time then

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went to Clinton and back to Wilson (no mention of a warrant). Cox also stated that when he would meet with me he would advise me of my rights. I asked if I needed an attorney he stated that was left up to me, and he would be getting back with me.

[sic throughout] (Id. at 12.)

On November 20, 2019, Cox and a detective from the East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Office met Plaintiff at her office to conduct an interview. (Id.) After Cox read Plaintiff her rights, he advised her that she was being investigated for payroll fraud. (Id.) Plaintiff disputed the timesheets presented to her. (Id. at 12-13.) In essence, Plaintiff alleges that she explained to Cox how the Town Clerk's payroll practices and record-keeping did not accurately reflect her hours for the day of the movie detail. (Id. at 13.) Plaintiff alleges that she offered Cox...

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