Years ago, Dan Collins, a Louisiana state contractor, exposed alleged corruption then one business door after another slammed shut. A December 14th ruling said he was wronged.
It took five years to build a case, but a jury said Dan Collins is owed more than half a million dollars in damages he said were inflicted when he blew the whistle on a state-funded project that he believed violated laws.
I got online, checked the state’s mineral activity and surprise, almost shocked, that at the end of the dredge there had been six wells that had been drilled starting in 2005 to that point in time in ’07
It was in 2005 that the Department of Natural Resources dredged Bayou Pastillion in Iberia Parish as a part of the Atchafalaya Basin Project to improve water quality for fisherman. The goal was supposed to be to improve water quality by removing sediment build up at the mouth of the bayou. Collins was the landman on the original project. With 12 years of experiences working with the state, it was up to his firm to check the surrounding land titles and other information before the project began. He believed that he discovered the real purpose of the projects was oil and gas exploration for the use and benefit of adjacent landowners.
It was just unheard of. Once I put this together and presented it to my superiors, to Secretary Angelle, to the Attorney General’s Office, to Mr. Teepell who brought it directly to Governor Jindal. It was never investigated. No one ever conducted a formal investigation at all.
When Collins became more vocal about his allegations, joined at times by fishermen worried about environmental damage caused by the extensive dredging, he said he suddenly began losing state contracts.
In 2010, Collins sued the Department of Natural Resources for retaliation. After a week-long trial, a jury awarded him $250,000 in damages.
My hope and desire is that it does send a message to state government that retaliation against environmental whistle blowers are not to be tolerated
According to the environmental whistleblower statute, Collins is eligible for triple the award as treble damages plus attorney’s fees and costs, bringing the total award to more than $750,000.