Under cloud of controversy, prisons chief stands by 'deal' made in harassment case
BATON ROUGE – Although the governor's ordered a policy review, prison officials stand behind an audio recording obtained by and broadcast on WBRZ newscasts recently where high-ranking bosses were heard trying to make a deal with an employee accused of sexual harassment.
"[We're] basically giving you the opportunity that you can resign and have all this stuff go away," prisons undersecretary Thomas Bickham was recorded telling the department's head doctor.
"I give you my word, there will be nothing in your folder and you can use me as a reference,” he said.
In an interview Thursday, Department of Corrections Secretary James Leblanc said there will be no discipline over the perceived “deal.”
"I'm satisfied with the way it was handled," Leblanc said.
In a rare afternoon sit-down interview, LeBlanc and Bickham made themselves available to answer questions about the way the case was handled against Dr. Raman Singh. Singh was at a conference in October in Lake Charles when an employee accused him of putting his arm on her and saying, "I love you." Singh maintained his innocence and did not take the deal to quit. Instead, he demanded an investigation and was eventually fired.
Bickham defended what he said by highlighting a policy that allows the Department of Corrections to get a resignation without proceeding with an investigation.
"We saw the ability to use the informal conference to resolve it," Bickham said today. "We were following our procedure if all sides agree to resolve it the investigation shall be discontinued is what the policy says."
Now, the department is searching for its next Medical Director. The husband of one of Singh's accusers will be considered for the position.
"Let me say this about her husband, he might apply, but I'm announcing this nationally," Leblanc said.
The Department of Corrections said today it substantiated the complaints against Singh with three state employee interviews. However, the state never got video of the encounter from entertainment center where the conference was held – something the doctor and his attorney asked for.
Singh believes a vendetta was behind the complaint.
To determine truth, the state could use Policy C-01-109, which allows for polygraphs to be used in investigations.
"It's not standard practice to polygraph them in these investigations," Bickham said. "We had eyewitnesses and multiple eyewitnesses."
State officials also stand by the decision to fire Singh.