Ousted ATC commissioner fights to ‘clear his name'

by Heather Miller

Murphy Painter, the former state Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control commissioner accused of obtaining private and illegal information on numerous public officials and employees, claims his firing was based on political retribution from Gov. Bobby Jindal's office.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's attorneys are urging a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the state by former Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Murphy Painter, whose employment ended in mid-2010 after a report made public allegations that he used his position to retrieve illegal information on numerous public officials and employees.

According to The Advocate, Painter has filed a lawsuit to get his job back and wants a jury to hear his case so he can "clear his name:"

A February inspector general's report alleged Painter used his ATC post to illegally obtain information on judges, the governor's staff, U.S. Sen. David Vitter's wife and others more than 1,000 times over five years, but Painter has not been formally charged with a crime.

The inspector general's report also recounted sexual harassment and stalking allegations that Painter's former administrative assistant, Kelli Suire, made against Painter in a lawsuit of her own in August 2010. Painter denies the allegations.

Painter, who attended Monday's hearing, contends in his suit that he was fired in August 2010 for not bowing to a demand from the Governor's Office to grant a liquor license for an entertainment complex called Champions Square outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. He claims there were legal problems with the license request.

The judge heard arguments from both sides Monday and has not indicated a timeline for her ruling.

Former state Sen. Troy Hebert, I-Jeanerette, took over the ATC commissioner post following Painter's departure.

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