A civil lawsuit against the New Orleans Saints over constructive discharge (quitting under duress) was filed last Friday by the club’s former security director Geoff Santini.
In the suit Santini cites an unnamed senior staff member, first reported by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk as head coach Sean Payton, being “distributed” prescription painkillers improperly from Saints head trainer Scottie Patton. (Page 2, Item 7)
Though he did not confirm that he was one of the individuals named in Santini’s lawsuit, in a statement today Payton denied ever improperly using prescription drugs.
I have reviewed Geoff Santini’s lawsuit and the unwarranted publicity it has received. I have never abused or stolen vicodin or any other medication.
In reading the 13-page Santini lawsuit filing, I also found no evidence cited by Santini suggesting Payton did anything wrong.
Though Payton is getting most of the media attention, the focus of Santini’s suit actually barely involves the Saints head coach. Instead, the thrust of the civil claim stems from videotape evidence that another senior Saints staff member, reportedly linebackers coach Joe Vitt, stole a total of 20 Vicodin pills from a team medical cabinet on April 29-30, 2009.
Santini then cites a subsequent, alleged coverup attempt by Saints officials on why those pills, and 110 others, went missing as the reason for his constructive discharge.
On June 23, 2009, Santini reported the evidence of the misappropriation of prescription meds by the Saints, with approval from team General Manager Mickey Loomis, to the U.S. Attorney’s Eastern District of Louisiana office. 11 months later, with no criminal charges brought against any member of the Saints organization, Santini filed a civil suit against the club last Friday.
Though Florio at Pro Football Talk reports that before Santini sued the team, he offered to drop all claims against the club for a seven-figure payout.
Multiple sources tell us that, before filing suit, Santini requested payment in the amount of $2 million in exchange for a full and complete settlement of his claims. … As we understand it, the Saints did not respond to the opening demand.
Per our sources, Santini’s counsel, Donald Hyatt, eventually offered to make a bottom-line, non-negotiable demand. The number was significantly lower than $2 million, and possibly less than $1 million.
In response, no offer came from the Saints.
That said, we’ve picked up indications that the Saints were trying on Friday to put together a package in the low six figures.
From the amount of material evidence supporting Santini’s claim of prescription drug abuse and a subsequent effort within the organization to cover it up, it isn’t hard to figure out why the Saints aren’t settling - and the Feds haven’t brought charges against any member of the club.
The heart of Santini’s claim in the lawsuit filing is videotape of Vitt allegedly stealing 20 Vicodin pills and taped conversations Santini had with Saints head trainer Patton and assistant trainer Kevin Mangum.
With Santini wearing a wire during his conversations with Patton and Mangum, it appears from the transcripts of those discussions that the former Saints security chief tried to get the trainers to directly implicate Saints GM Loomis in a coverup of Vitt’s alleged Vicodin theft - along with another 110 missing Vicodin pills.
But from those taped conversations, there’s no smoking gun statement from Patton or Mangum that Loomis expressly directed them to misrepresent the dispensation of Vicodin as it pertained to Vitt or any member of the organization.
Yes, there’s some hinting from the trainers that indicates that might’ve happened, but that sentiment from Patton and Mangum may have resulted from a repeated, leading line of questioning from the wire-wearing Santini.
With no criminal charges pending, the only thing that ultimately matters now in this civil case is if Santini can prove that Loomis actively attempted to involve him and team trainers Patton and Mangum in the coverup of an illegal misappropriation of Vicodin to staff members.
Gwen Filosa of the NEW ORLEANS TIMES-PICAYUNE reported on April 30:
Santini, who said he recorded conversations about the missing Vicodin with his supervisors and other staff members, said he was instructed to create false records to conceal both federal and state criminal violations.
We know that Santini did indeed record conversations with Patton and Mangum, but there’s no indication in the lawsuit filing that Santini’s conversations with Loomis were recorded. And it’s transcript-less conversations with Loomis in the lawsuit filing that Santini cites as the main reason for his constructive discharge.
Santini transcribed the taped conversations with the two trainers word-for-word in his lawsuit filing, but there’s no such transcript from his numerous conversations with Loomis. Conversations that are critical to his claim against the club.
As for Payton, he’s barely mentioned in the lawsuit, which includes no material evidence suggesting that the coach did anything inappropriate. The passage below - direct from the filing - is the sole basis for Santini including Payton in the lawsuit:
If Payton did receive pills, head trainer Patton told Santini he was “distributed” them despite Payton not having a “painful condition.” But if Payton was indeed “distributed” the pills by Patton, how did the coach acquire the medication improperly?
If Patton thought that Payton did not feel any pain, why did he distribute the coach the pills in the first place? With Vicodin being used as a fairly common, general pain relief medication, how did athletic trainer Patton know the level of pain Payton was experiencing?
The filing answers none of those questions.
The entire basis for Payton being included in Santini’s lawsuit is an athletic trainer giving his medical diagnosis on the pain threshold of the coach. Yet it was the same trainer who (allegedly) reported his own improper “distribution” of pills to Payton!
If anyone is at fault in that alleged drug transaction, it’s trainer Patton and the attending physician Dr. Amoss. Perhaps not coincidentally, there’s no subsequent mention in the filing of Payton ever being examined by Amoss - even after Patton claimed Payton was improperly distributed Vicodin.
So with all that in mind, why on earth did Santini include Payton in the filing?
Is it unreasonable to think that Santini thought he could get a larger “settlement” payout if Payton was somehow involved in his scandalous-sounding lawsuit?
I’m not dismissing the fact that some impropriety may have gone on in regards to the dispensation and/or acquisition of prescription medication by the Saints. If Vitt is seen on videotape stealing 20 Vicodin pills, that certainly is cause for concern.
But Santini said himself in the lawsuit that that evidence was turned over to the Feds last June. 11 months later, the Feds have yet to charge anyone in the Saints organization with criminal activity.
Beyond those slivers of material evidence, Santini’s claims against the club, especially when it comes to gratuitously including Payton in the lawsuit and then subsequently demanding $2 million from the club, can’t help but look dubious.