“Whistle blower” files suit against St. Louis High School & Diocese of Lake Charles

Source: KPLC-TV, By Lee Peck, 05/19/2009

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – No longer playing for the same team, former St. Louis Catholic High School Head Basketball Coach Butch Sigler files suit against his former employer and the Diocese of Lake Charles, claiming he was let go for bringing to light alleged wrong doing at the school.

“There’s no question based on the timing of this,” said Sigler’s attorney Clay Burgess.

Burgess filed the suit Monday in 14th Judicial Court under violation of Louisiana’s whistle blowers law. According to the lawsuit, in January of this year, Sigler reported to St. Louis High School President Deborah Frank that one of its driver’s education instructors, Jason Oertling, was not actually certified to teach driver’s education courses and that this was a violation of Louisiana law. The suit also provides what it claims is evidence that Oertling had been using other instructors’ certification numbers and sometimes no certification numbers at all. It’s evidence which the plaintiff claims was also presented to Frank.

7 News contacted Oertling: when asked about the allegations that he was uncertified to teach driver’s ed – he declined to comment referring us to the Diocese.

“There’s no telling how many kids over at St. Louis took Driver’s Ed from this gentleman who appears to be unqualified to teach it. I don’t know if they are going to have to go back and tell All State or State Farm or whoever their insurance company is that they’ve been receiving discounts they were not entitled to. I think it creates a big mess and the school should have done the right thing immediately and notify all the parents and the students,” said Burgess.

Lee Peck: “And that has not been done?”

“As far as I know that has not been done,” said Burgess.

The suit also claims Sigler reported to Deborah Frank that St. Louis High School and/or the Diocese of Lake Charles had not been reporting his social security benefits to the IRS and that his statement was two years behind.

“With regards to the social security, Coach obviously wanted to continue coaching and because he was in his 60’s he was receiving social security statements where it was showing some years he wasn’t receiving credit for and he approached that subject with St. Louis,” explained Burgess.

Sigler says after following up with a written letter to Ms. Frank on April 19th – once again expressing his concerns over his social security benefits – he was told on April 28th that his contract with the school would not be renewed.

We did contact both the Diocese of Lake Charles and the St. Louis High School. Both say they have not been served with the lawsuit yet, but Diocese Superintendent of Schools Mary Ann Moses released this statement:

“Diocesan policy states that all teacher contracts are for a one year period. The decision to offer a new contract is made at the local school level by school administration. It is our understanding that the new administration at St. Louis Catholic High School has decided to proceed in a different direction with some of its personnel. Mr. Sigler’s current contract has not been terminated. It is not our practice to discuss personnel decisions in a public forum. Once we have had the opportunity to view the specifics of the law suit, we will respond accordingly, in a timely manner through the appropriate legal forum.”

As a result of the alleged claims, Sigler is suing for mental and emotional distress and anxiety; loss of wages and employment; court costs; and reasonable attorney’s fees.