Work attendance violations and time sheet discrepancies involving Allyson Campbell, a law clerk at Fourth Judicial District Court, resulted in a written warning, a reprimand, a demotion, a month-long suspension without pay, an auditor's finding and an investigation for official misconduct.
Those discoveries surfaced in a Louisiana State Police report of an investigation of Campbell over allegations of payroll fraud and document destruction. The Ouachita Citizen obtained the State Police investigative report last week through a public records request submitted to state Attorney General Jeff Landry. Landry’s office recently closed the investigation into allegations against Campbell.
The Attorney General sent Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones a letter last month stating there was not enough admissible evidence to secure a “sustainable conviction” against Campbell. The Attorney General's conclusion corresponded with a decision by state Inspector General Stephen Street, who declined to arrest Campbell for payroll fraud or document destruction. Like Landry's office, Street said there was not enough evidence.
In light of the closed criminal investigation by state authorities, the Attorney General's office produced the some 200-page investigative report to The Ouachita Citizen in full — the only information redacted by the Attorney General's office appeared to be Campbell's Social Security number. The entire State Police investigative report is available online at www.ouachitacitizen.com.
Campbell's personnel file
included in LSP report
The allegations against Campbell for payroll fraud and document destruction represent a significant part of litigation in both state and federal courts. In state district court, Monroe businessman Stanley R. Palowsky III and his attorneys, Joe Ward of Covington and Sedric Banks of Monroe, aired the allegations against Campbell in 2014, claiming the law clerk withheld or destroyed documents he filed with the court.
In early 2015, The Ouachita Citizen sought to obtain a copy of Campbell's personnel file through public records requests to the district court. This newspaper believed Campbell's personnel file could shed light on the allegations of payroll fraud and document destruction, but the district court refused to produce the personnel file's contents.
Later, Palowsky sued Campbell as well as five district court judges — Fred Amman, Ben Jones, Wilson Rambo, Carl Sharp and Stephens Winters — who he believed were trying to conceal Campbell's activities.
The claim that Campbell, district court judges and their attorneys conspired to cover up criminal activities was revived in an April lawsuit against them by Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman. Marchman filed her lawsuit against Campbell, the judges and their attorneys in U.S. District Court. Through her attorneys, Banks and Ward, Marchman argued her constitutional rights were violated by the defendants when she tried to expose their alleged wrongdoing and conspiracy.
Both Palowsky's and Marchman's lawsuits are ongoing. Meanwhile, Campbell has sued Palowsky and his attorneys for accusing her of payroll fraud and document destruction. For the same reason, she sought sanctions against Palowsky, Banks and Ward. On Tuesday, Campbell filed a motion in federal court for sanctions against Marchman, Banks and Ward, claiming again that false and defamatory allegations were made against her.
That would be the case, Campbell argued, since the Inspector General and Attorney General both declined to arrest or prosecute the law clerk. Though the Inspector General and Attorney General's letters did not state the allegations were “unfounded,” Campbell reiterated that defense in her Aug. 2 memorandum in support of sanctions against Marchman and her attorneys.
“Judge Marchman's attorneys cannot blame insufficient time for investigation or their reliance on plaintiff Judge Marchman for their incorrect facts,” stated Campbell's memorandum. “The attorneys have been involved in this mess since 2014 and have perpetuated their false and defamatory allegations.”
“The unjustified allegations in State court and Federal court have caused damage to the judicial system by publicly shaming the Fourth Judicial District Court judges and Campbell, causing them to be unfairly attacked by the news media,” Campbell's memorandum added.
Campbell's Aug. 2 memorandum was not the first time she or her attorney, Brian Crawford of Monroe, have claimed the Inspector General's and Attorney General's letters “cleared” her of any wrongdoing or concluded the allegations were “unfounded.”
It also was not the first time Campbell claimed a public document meant more than it did either, since she wrote a June 22, 2015 letter to Jones, the court administrator, claiming she had been “vindicated by the Court.” That supposed vindication was delivered, according to Campbell's letter, by ad hoc Judge Anne Simon who ruled against The Ouachita Citizen in the district court's 2015 lawsuit against this newspaper over whether its public records requests should be answered. The district court sued The Ouachita Citizen one day after the newspaper filed a criminal complaint with the district attorney over the court's refusal to comply with the public records law as well as requested an investigation into the accusations against Campbell. Simon’s ruling did not involve criminal charges against Campbell. Instead, she ruled the district court could bar the public's or newspaper's access to Campbell's personnel file since the law clerk's right to privacy outweighed the public's right to know. In her letter, Campbell also said she was troubled by how Palowsky's attorneys and The Ouachita Citizen had obtained information about her work at the court.
Campbell's personnel file was released by the Attorney General last week as part of the State Police investigative report obtained by The Ouachita Citizen.
“No record of her
ever showing up”
for hours Campbell
claimed she worked
In July 2015, Jones, the district attorney, called on the State Police to assist the Inspector General in its investigation of Margaret Allyson Campbell, 41, of Monroe, who was accused of committing payroll fraud and withholding or destroying court documents in civil cases. Campbell, who is not a licensed attorney, has worked as a law clerk at the district court since August 2001.
The investigators assigned to Campbell's case were Heath Humble, with the Office of Inspector General, and Ron Huey, with State Police.
Among those interviewed by investigators were Fourth Judicial District Court judges Marchman (who chaired the court's personnel committee until she claims she was forced off the committee by other judges who sought to protect Campbell), Wendell Manning (who was chief judge in 2014 when Campbell's time sheet discrepancies cropped up), and Jones, who retired from the bench Dec. 31, 2014 and then became the court's administrator in 2015.
Marchman and Jones, the court administrator, confirmed to investigators that Campbell was suspended without pay during May 2014 for “failing to properly document her time sheets,” according to Huey's State Police report. Marchman told investigators Campbell’s time sheets reflected she had worked eight days when she actually did not work. According to Manning, when the judges became aware of the problem with Campbell's time sheets, the court asked Laura Hartt, the court administrator at that time, to investigate the matter along with deputy court administrator and human resources coordinator Julie Cunningham.
According to a March 12, 2015 letter written by Campbell, she claimed one of her superiors was possibly trying to bully her. Campbell said someone informed her the investigation into possible payroll fraud began after Marchman heard from a “source” that some law clerks had time sheet issues, but that same source also “went on to repeat an unfounded personal rumor about me.”
“What I am not sure I completely understand is the relevance and repeating of the inexplicably random, unfounded gossip about my private life included with the same information,” Campbell wrote. “I believe that having a personal rumor spread by one of my superiors in conjunction with the information of a possible work related issue was improper. I believe it could be construed as office bullying or an attempt to create a hostile work environment.”
Campbell did not detail the substance of the “unfounded personal rumor” or the identity of the person supposedly promoting it.
Hartt told investigators she had observed some law clerks were not complying with their work schedules when compared to reports showing when they used their key fob, or security pass, to enter doors at the Ouachita Parish Courthouse.
“They (Hartt and Cunningham) then met with those (law clerks) they had found issues with and were able to resolve the discrepancies with all of the law clerks except Allyson Campbell,” stated Huey's report. “Campbell would not answer their questions and claimed there was no problem since her Judges could reach her. They had eight full days where Campbell claimed to have worked but there was no record of her ever showing up.”
Cunningham and Rambo signed off on an April 24, 2014 written warning and reprimand to Campbell for failing to comply with the court's written policies on work attendance. The reprimand stemmed from Hartt's and Cunningham's investigation into time sheet discrepancies detailed in an April 15, 2014 email from Cunningham to Hartt and Marchman.
According to Cunningham's April 15, 2014 report, the time sheet discrepancies were noted on days ranging from Jan. 14, 2014 to April 2014, including instances in which Campbell was paid for working seven hours on days when she also had doctor appointments, played tennis, and flew from New York to Monroe.
Cunningham reached that conclusion after comparing Campbell's time sheets with emails and text messages between the law clerk and Rambo, one of the judges for whom Campbell clerked. Marchman claimed in her lawsuit that video surveillance footage confirmed Cunningham's and Hartt's findings. Cunningham's report questioned at least 12 days on which Campbell recorded working.
According to Campbell's April 24, 2014 reprimand, she was demoted from senior or chief law clerk as a result of her work attendance violations. Her violations also led to the court's institution of a new sign-in and sign-out procedure to keep accurate time records for all employees. During Campbell's May 2014 suspension without pay, she was forbidden from remotely accessing her office computer, entering any employee-only areas of the courthouse and from associating with any “particular attorney or law firm,” as prohibited by the employee conduct policy.
Campbell wrote a response to her reprimand on March 12, 2015, which was included in her personnel file.
“I have never knowingly, intentionally, willfully or maliciously attempted to defraud this court at anytime,” Campbell wrote in her March 12, 2015 response.
When Hartt first began her investigation into Campbell's work attendance issues, she interviewed all law clerks at the district court. Campbell's remarks during that interview were recorded by Hartt as brief snippets: “Not aware of doing anything wrong. Whatever. What about it?”
Campbell's April 24, 2014 reprimand also addressed her behavior toward human resources staff: “You appear to be irritated and inconvenienced when you are visiting with us. Rolling your eyes is disrespectful, unacceptable, and violates our company Civility policy. This behavior is expected to stop immediately.”
Judges defend Campbell;
internal report concealed
Cunningham's April 15, 2014 internal report on Campbell's payroll discrepancies appears to have been concealed by district court officials, who told The Ouachita Citizen in early 2015 that no internal investigative report existed.
In an audit report of the court's 2014 finances, which was prepared by Bosch & Statham, a Jonesboro CPA firm, auditors wrote the payroll discrepancies were detected by the court administrators. Those discrepancies were investigated internally before the audit was conducted, auditors wrote.
However, when The Ouachita Citizen inquired in early 2015 about the internal investigation and asked for a copy of any investigative report of the payroll discrepancies through a public records request, the district court's attorney, Jon Guice of Monroe, and Winters, then-chief judge, both wrote letters to the newspaper stating the internal investigative report referred to by auditors did not exist.
“Moreover, no report exists which is responsive to your latest request, and the Court is under no obligation to create such a document,” Guice and Winters wrote in separate letters, dated March 4, 2015.
According to court employee time sheets obtained by The Ouachita Citizen through a public records request, the judges who signed off on Campbell's time sheets for the days questioned in Cunningham's internal report were identified by signatures or by staff's notes to be Amman, Rambo, Scott Leehy and Wendell Manning.
Meanwhile, a Post-It Note written by Cunningham and attached to Campbell's April 24, 2014 reprimand said, “Allyson did write a memo but Judge Rambo said he was keeping it and giving her the chance to rewrite it.” Campbell said her response was originally written in April 2014, but she was asked to delay submitting it until she had more time to “think over its contents.” She filed her official response into her personnel file on March 12, 2015, one day after The Ouachita Citizen published a news report about the district court's refusal to comply with public records requests seeking information from Campbell's personnel file.
Campbell told investigators she kept a work schedule according to the needs of her supervising judges, stated Huey's State Police report.
“Allyson Campbell was questioned but claimed her Judges had given her the time off,” Huey's report stated. “Campbell advised that as far as her time sheet concerns, she worked the hours her Judges required of her. She often works beyond the hours spent in the office. She could not remember exactly what happened on the days that were questioned prior to her suspension.”
When questioned, Sharp, for whom Campbell clerked, told investigators he had no problems reaching Campbell. She was a salaried employee, as opposed to an hourly employee, according to Sharp. In Inspector General Street's letter to Jones, the district attorney, Street wrote, “(Campbell) stated that her work schedule was approved by her supervisor and that she worked the hours for which she was paid. Judge Carl Sharp...also confirmed that Ms. Campbell was a salaried employee whose hours were sometimes irregular.”
“(Sharp) stated the law clerks work on salary and he can reach Campbell when he needs her,” stated Huey's State Police report.
When investigators interviewed Jones, the court administrator, the retired judge told investigators the court's judges “did not feel they could prove Campbell was not at work on the eight days in question, so they did not move forward with criminal charges.”
In spite of Campbell's status as a salaried employee, the law clerk's April 24, 2014 reprimand states her work attendance violations and time sheet discrepancies could constitute a misuse of public funds.
“The salaries of our employees are paid with public funds for which the court is held accountable,” stated Campbell's April 24, 2014 reprimand. “Any misuse of such funds in the form of inaccurate record keeping can have a serious consequence for the subject employee and for the court. Court finances are subject to review and audit by not only our independent auditor, but also by the legislative auditor. Misuse of such funds, by law, must be reported to various agencies. Accordingly, we are not seeking to be overbearing. Rather, we simply must insist on compliance to avoid both intentional and even inadvertent violations.”
Auditors notify DA
possible payroll fraud
In a March 12, 2015 letter to Jones, the court administrator, Campbell complained about her connection to the audit report on the court's 2014 finances, which stated some court employees may have earned pay for hours they did not work. Specifically, Campbell said she wondered how Ouachita Citizen reporter Johnny Gunter had connected her to the matter of possible payroll fraud, since Gunter had requested her time sheets in a public records request a few weeks before the audit report became public.
According to Huey's State Police report, the Legislative Auditor's office notified Jones, the district attorney, “of the possibility of Public Payroll Fraud being committed by Campbell.”
wasn't her first
Before the early 2014 discrepancies were discovered in her time sheets, Campbell had previously received a verbal and written warning over incorrectly recording leave on her time sheets in 2011.
“On January 11, 2012, you (Campbell) received verbal and written counseling for tardy and absenteeism problems,” stated the April 24, 2014 reprimand issued to Campbell. “This counseling did not have the impact that we had expected on your attendance.”
That Jan. 11, 2012 counseling or warning referred to incidents explained in a human resources memo, which was contained in Campbell's personnel file. The memo revealed discrepancies in Campbell's time sheets in late 2011.
When human resources processed payroll for Sept. 30, 2011, Campbell reported using 28 hours of annual leave and two hours of comp time though her annual leave balance only totaled 13.01 hours. As a result, Campbell's pay was docked for the remaining 13 hours.
“She agreed with no problem,” stated the memo. “She commented that she really didn't keep up with her leave balances, and whatever I needed to do was fine with her.”
More problems with Campbell's use of leave cropped up.
From Sept. 1, 2011 to Dec. 31, 2011, Campbell reported using 122.5 hours of sick leave, including 52.5 hours of sick leave in December — three and a half weeks of leave used in four months. She had run out of annual leave on Sept. 30, 2011, according to the memo.
“Over the next few months, I noticed Allyson's sick leave use jumped up significantly,” stated the memo. “Because her annual leave had run out, and no mention of illness or family illness was ever made, it seemed as though an abuse of sick leave was occurring.”
At Marchman's direction, Campbell was questioned around Jan. 11, 2012 about the possible leave abuse.
“Allyson became very defensive and said she had been touring potential nursing homes for her grandmother all over the state and she thought that constituted the use of sick leave,” stated the memo. “Judge Rambo counseled Allyson that searching for nursing homes did not constitute sick leave under the 4JDC policy.”