On Friday, former Saints director of security Geoffrey Santini sued the team for constructive discharge. He alleges that G.M. Mickey Loomis attempted to cover up evidence that Vicodin was being abused and/or stolen from the team drug locker by two senior staff members.
The lawsuit does not name the two senior staff members. Per the initial filing, Saints trainer Scottie Patton told Santini that one of the unnamed employees has a “painful medical condition,” and that the other one does not.
Based on extensive discussions with multiple sources having knowledge of the situation but who have requested anonymity given the sensitive nature of the case, the two unnamed senior staff members are assistant head coach/linebackers coach Joe Vitt and head coach Sean Payton.
Per the lawsuit, “Senior Staff Member A” (i.e., Payton) allegedly was receiving sufficient Vicodin to constitute abuse. The lawsuit does not specifically allege that “Senior Staff Member A” was stealing the pills.
Keep in mind that these are only allegations. To date, no proof has been introduced linking either man to the alleged theft, unauthorized use, and/or abuse of Vicodin from the Saints’ drug locker. It is our understanding that the matter has been referred to local federal authorities, and that the matter has been investigated. We don’t know whether the investigation has been concluded, or whether it remains active.
Per our sources, Vitt is the staff member with the painful medical condition. Which means that Payton is the staff member who, based on the information allegedly provided by Patton to Santini, does not have a painful medical condition.
The Saints declined comment on the matter. Reached by e-mail, V.P. of communications Greg Bensel forwarded his statement from Friday, which initially was given to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “I will not have any other comment nor will I be releasing these names,” Bensel told us.
(Here is Bensel’s statement from Friday: “A former employee who resigned just before the 2009 regular season threatened to go public with these unfounded charges unless we agreed to pay him an exorbitant sum of money. We refused and now he has gone public. We will aggressively defend these false allegations in court. We will not have any further comment on this matter at this time. Rather we look forward to welcoming our rookie players and want our focus to be on continuing our preparations for the 2010 Football Season and defending our title.”)
We’ve been advised that settlement discussions indeed occurred before the suit was filed, but that an agreement (obviously) was not reached. The lawsuit filing indicates that formal service of the documents has not yet been requested. Once service occurs, the Saints will have a finite period of time within which to respond. Given that the claims implicate federal drug laws, it’s possible that the team will remove the lawsuit from Louisiana state court to federal court.
Typically, federal court provides a more level playing field for business interests. Given the extent to which the Saints are locally beloved, however, Santini and his lawyer could have a hard time finding jurors in either the state or federal setting who will be capable of overlooking the fleur-de-lis that has been tattooed onto their souls.