A former state worker who claimed he was fired in 2012 for complaining about the state’s alleged waste of emergency supplies, such as ice, tarps and generators, during Hurricane Isaac has agreed to settle his whistleblower lawsuit, his attorney said Monday.
The trial of Bruce Ellis’ suit against the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, was scheduled to start Monday but both sides reached an agreement in principle over the weekend to settle the case, Baton Rouge lawyer Jill Craft said.
The agreement will be in writing and finalized within the next two weeks, Craft said, adding that she cannot discuss the terms of the settlement at this time.
Agency spokesman Mike Steele said the agency also cannot comment on the pending litigation.
Ellis, who worked for the agency from 2006 until his September 2012 termination, said in his suit that the state ordered excessive amounts of ice and other emergency supplies during Isaac and wasted them, at great cost to taxpayers.
Truckloads of ice were taken to a “dry/unrefrigerated” warehouse in Lacombe belonging to Pelican Ice, the state’s ice vendor, and after the storm to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, where the ice was allowed to melt, according to the suit, costing the state more than $2.5 million.
In videos shot at the Pelican Ice warehouse, several workers can be seen “playing ice-skating rink with forklifts in the melting ice,” the suit states.
Ellis, a 24-year veteran of the armed services, contends he was fired after agency officials intercepted two of his emails documenting the alleged misuse and waste.
“In service to us, the citizens of Louisiana, he opposed what he believed was the irresponsible expenditure of taxpayer monies and resources. For that, he lost his job,” Craft said Monday. “In paying such a high price for doing what is right, Mr. Ellis sacrificed for a better and more accountable future.
“It is his desire that this case and what happened to him will serve as a lesson for the future and will never be repeated,” she added. “He and his family sacrificed a lot, but can now put this behind them and move forward together.”
Ellis also is represented by lawyer Crystal Bounds.
The agency has previously defended their response to Isaac as being no different than any other disaster in that they hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
The state ordered a seven-day supply of ice based on projections for Isaac as well as the state’s experience with previous storms and the expected power outages, the agency has said. Isaac knocked out power to more than 900,000 customers, but most of the state regained power in three to four days, the agency said.
Recipients of unused ice included the state Department of Corrections, state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, distribution points for hurricane aid, sites where disaster food stamps were being distributed and Pelican Ice, according to the agency.