A federal judge declined Wednesday to accept jurisdiction over a portion of a dispute that pits two whistleblowers against the Louisiana Office of Community Development and Shaw Group Environmental & Infrastructure Inc.
Former Shaw employee Christy Weiser of Denham Springs and suspended Shaw employee Thomas G. Pierson of Livingston Parish filed a civil suit in state court in May. They allege that kickbacks and favoritism have plagued a state program. That program, monitored by Shaw, provides funds to homeowners in flood-prone areas for elevation of their houses.
State officials denied the allegations of kickbacks, favoritism and other improprieties last week. They then filed a separate suit in federal court, where they alleged the whistleblowers stole documents that contained confidential homeowner information and made that information available to the news media.
Louisiana’s suit was assigned to U.S. District Judge James J. Brady, who immediately issued a temporary restraining order that barred the whistleblowers from future document releases.
Brady dissolved that restraining order Wednesday.
“I am going to decline jurisdiction,” Brady added.
“The defendants in this case stole documents that did not belong to them,” Brady said of Weiser and Pierson. But he added that the dispute over that action is a matter that falls under the authority of state law.
Brady’s decision leaves the whistleblowers’ original case in the hands of U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson.
Weiser and Pierson filed their suit against the state and Shaw in state District Court in May. But state officials had it transferred last week to federal court, where it was assigned to Jackson. In that litigation, the whistleblowers are seeking damages for alleged retaliation by the Office of Community Development and Shaw.
Both Shaw and state officials have denied the whistleblowers’ allegations.
The whistleblowers are asking Jackson to return their suit to state District Court.