The Daily Reveille sounds the bugle on LSU’s silence on the van Heerden lawsuit. Brings up an important public policy point we’ve tackled on Slabbed

With a tip of the hat to Editilla I’m highlighting yesterday’s oped from the LSU student newspaper for two reasons. First because we signed on to the van Heerden justice league and more important the editors tackled a public policy subject that we’ve also highlighted on Slabbed in the confidential settlement which we think is a tool for corporations to buy their way out of egregious behavior. I’ll link our post on the topic below the op-ed:

Those students, faculty and staff who were personally affected by Hurricane Katrina remember the frustration of the years that followed. Countless people across the Gulf South struggled to rebuild their lives, and figures across the spectrum of leadership pointed fingers at each other. We still aren’t exactly sure five years later what went wrong, why it went wrong or who was responsible.

One of the most high-profile — and important — battles from that time flared up again recently. And Louisianians have a rare, short window of opportunity to get some answers.

Ivor Van Heerden, a former University professor who made national headlines for his criticisms of the collapsed levees constructed and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, officially filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the University and several high-ranking administrators. Van Heerden claims he was forced out of the University because his criticisms of the Corps endangered federal funding.

The accusations in the lawsuit are a shocking summation of suspicions that have existed ever since the professor’s job was put on the line in 2006.

Chancellor Michael Martin said Wednesday most of this situation developed before his time here, and he wouldn’t speculate on it because of the pending lawsuit.

“David Constant and the department head of civil engineering made a decision,” Martin said. “It seemed to be entirely in correspondence with our policy, and as a consequence, I have to defend their decision unless someone proves to me they were somehow rudely biased or had become criminally insane.”

Whatever the reasons, the University’s silence is deafening. If Van Heerden was fired for any reasons other than the one he claims, no one in any capacity at the University has provided them.

This is, at best, a staggeringly poorly-managed public relations foul-up. At the worst, it’s a tacit admission of overwhelming, obvious guilt on the part of the University.

One thing is obvious: This is not some minor PR headache the University can weather by remaining aloof. All the people affected by this catastrophe deserve answers.

An out-of-court settlement cannot and will not suffice. If Van Heerden honestly believes the University fired him to silence him, this is not merely a matter of personal injury. It is an intolerable, outrageous affront to the thousands of dead, homeless and still-suffering victims of Katrina, and it is an almost criminal impediment to preventing such a catastrophe from being repeated.

The worst possible outcome of this confrontation for the citizens of New Orleans and the entire Gulf Coast is an out-of-court settlement. The accusations are too grave, and the stakes are too high for this matter to be swept under the rug. Either Van Heerden is right, and cowardly administrators silenced him out of loyalty to or fear of some political or bureaucratic machine, or there were legitimate reasons for his forced departure.

At this point, we simply want an explanation and answers.

For now, Van Heerden has presented the most persuasive argument — in that he’s actually presented an argument at all.

I’d like to invite our readers to re-visit our post which touches on confidential settlements by Bam Bam Bigelow, A Corporate Predator’s Greatest Fear. Bam Bam is on hiatus due to personal issues but promises to return to the slabbed nation as soon as possible.

sop

7 thoughts on “The Daily Reveille sounds the bugle on LSU’s silence on the van Heerden lawsuit. Brings up an important public policy point we’ve tackled on Slabbed”

  1. Hey thanks Y’all. Doubtless you noticed that this was also picked up by FoodMusicJustice.com which is Ken McCarthy, a damn near bonafide genius videographer / journalist / archivist. He has done several fine works for levees.org and was at Dr. Van Heerden’s presser. And he is on this like a Catahoula.
    Fired Up! I hope youz can go check him out and give’em a shout.

    One of the most endearing sucker punches I have stomped all over at that nola.com article is the one where the Turfers ply the Meme that Ivor is this Opportunistic Self Promoting PR Wizard.
    Well, I’ve met the man a few times and… if he is a PR Wizard then Editilla needs to return our diploma to the PT Barnham School of Shameless Self Promotion! Graduated Cuma Sum Lator. Oops sorry. Anywayz…
    Ivor still uses a pocket protector, I can tell by the way he holds his shoulder. Learned that from my daddy. I could be wrong there, but not about the cut of his jib, to wit: Ivor van Heerden just doesn’t do PR very well. Great Speaker. Able to leap any lectern in a single bound. Clear as a Bell face to face. He is the Real Deal and you cannot PR that. One gets eyes like Ivor’s when they look across Louisiana and see the sea.
    Suffice to say, he could use all the help he can get.
    Enter Ken McCarthy.
    Prepare to get slabbed.

  2. sop: This is the typical big business ( make no mistake about it Higher Ed is all about Big Business) big government intimidation of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. Jefferson Parish is in-line for the next lawsuit(s) now that the cat is out of the bag about Whistleblower protections contained in the Code of Ordinances( See Section 23 of the Code online at Jeffparish.net then click on Municode and scroll to 23).

    Seems there are provisions prohibiting retaliation against Whistleblowers hiding in the Code and in the State laws ( 42:1169) which most working stiffs would never know about because no one has been telling them about it.

    The thugs in charge are very diligent about issuing memos telling employees to shut their pieholes and follow chain-of-command in reporting suspected abuses/irregularities/ illegal activities BUT just cannot seem to find the energy or time to tell them about the protections for those who do so.

    Not to mention that the latest missive from on high gives a protocol doomed to failure for so many reasons.

    Requiring that a whistleblower report to their immediate superior is tantamount to giving the miscreants a detailed blueprint on how to (1) cover up all evidence of misdeeds (2) take job action against the whistleblower BEFORE any accusations are formally lodged and thereby making the whistleblower look like a disgruntled employee with disciplinary issues and (3) get all their cohorts on the same page . Not to mention the CHILLING EFFECT their actions have on colleagues of the whistleblower who see all the activity, know what is coming and determine to keep THEIR pieholes shut and their employment in place.

    A favorite ploy of JP Executive manglers is to suddenly reassign the whistleblower. If you work on the EB you will be summoned to a pre-disciplinary hearing and informed that you now work on the WB effective immediately and vice versa. For parents with school age children this can be a logistical nightmare. For employees with lives outside of work this can be a logistical nightmare.

    At the hearing your friendly Human Resources representative will be there, ostensibly to make sure all is above-board and fair, however the fix is in, they have already been told how the cow is going to eat the corn and in some instances employees have accused the HR rep of physically threatening the employee.

    But I digress. The newly restated protocol once again attempts to continue the misapprehension that employees must follow chain of command or be subject to adverse disciplinary action. NOT SO. Every employee , classified or unclassified, has the absolute right and in fact obligation to report suspicious activities or known violations. They can report it directly to the Personnel Department with a confidential statement or they can report it to the District Attorney ( more on that exercise in futility in another post) or Attorney General or US Attorney or FBI. There is also the Government Corruption arm of the Metropolitan Crime Commission ( MCC) under Rafael Goyenche where anonymous tips can be left on phones or emails.

    So don’t be dissuaded by insinuations and thinly veiled threats Jefferson Parish employees: as with all abuse SECRECY is the abuser’s main protection. Shine the light on them, show them up for who and what they are. You have protections and in some cases REWARDS for blowing that whistle as loudly as you can. And there is strong protection in numbers so pass the word and back up your colleagues when they alert the authorities. If you don’t you too can be charged in the cover-up and/or obstruction of justice if you know about the crimes. Bank it that the real culprits are singing like canaries and getting immunity while telling you to shut your piehole.

  3. Unslabbed you make excellent points on those whistleblower protections. That is also a subject we’ve tackled here on Slabbed as it relates to the Risby sisters. Believe me we are not done with Jeff Parish corruption as many people are literally shouting from the mountain top and as long as they are singing we’ll be reseraching and repeating what we can verify. Also of those people you mentioned I’d go with Ralphael. Connick is in bed with too many judges and others in the power structure to be trusted here IMHO.

    Ken we thank you for taking the time to stop in with us. We’ll be updating our blogroll again soon to include sites like yours and the American Zombie. If you type in Mr Go in our search box you’ll find my partner Nowdy has done what I think is the best legal blogging on Robinson bar none. Now that she isn’t getting daily hate mail from AROD I hope she’ll be motivated to blog on the topic again. And of course we hope to cover the legal aspects of Professor van Heerden’s case to the same level that we do the policyholder litigation. Since it is in State Court we’ll have access issues that we don’t have with PACER and the federal courts though we hope the slabbed nation can keep us stocked with docs so Nowdy can bring her A game to the party. If we get enough filings we’ll build a page to further highlight the litigation like we have the policyholder cases.

    Again thank you both for commenting with us today.

    sop

  4. I read the story over at the Ladder this morning and intended to point it out but got caught up in legislation.

    Great post and great comments – so glad you got this up and linked Bam Bam’s post. Someone recently told me the purpose of the court was to settle disputes. In other words, settlement is desirable. I can accept that but find the notion of “sealed settlements” contrary to any meaningful justice.

    Seals are better suited for zoos!

  5. The moving forces in Watergate that peeled back the layers of arrogance, deceit, stone-walling and just plain stupidity were partisan politics and the personality of Nixon himself. Both fodder to drive the press to and in overdrive. Unfortunately most lawsuits lack such passion no matter how meritorious. And when the lawsuit’s core issue is the unlawful “firing” of an employee such as Prof. van Heerdon at LSU or a whistleblower to the corruption in Jefferson Parish the offending party always seems to prefer character assassination as a defense. Deflect and confuse. It’s about the plaintiff’s personality not the wrongful conduct of the defendant. Reading Martin’s statement reveals such posturing; that unless van Heerdon can prove his accusers to be nuts, then it must be that he is ! The same holds true for the whistleblower; one only complains if he or she is a malcontent. Fortunately for us, the advent of computer technology possessed by more and more questioning minds merged with a quest for the factual truth, credible blogs such Slabbed will continue to be an important ally on behalf of those who dare buck the system.

  6. In today’s day and age of the internet the old line media can no longer act as gate keeper controlling the dissemination of information, especially in smaller markets like the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

    Do blogs like Slabbed make a difference? You betcha we do. The media reads us, sometimes ripping us off a la former Seacoast Echo reporter Meaghan “Cheech” Chapman ripping off our coverage of Camp Coastal Outpost or WLOX taking down a particularily bad editorial after we called them on it. (I’ll also note and give props to WLOX for no longer having State Farm sponsor South Mississippi Heros.)

    Do you folks reckon the Times Picayune read my post on the firing of the internal audit staff in Jefferson Parish before they wrote an op-ed on the subject a week or so after? It was also an early indication to me they intended to go easy on certain groups such as the Parish Council by not calling them for being asleep at the switch. Fair enough, it isn’t my paper. Then again it didn’t surprise me that we have gotten almost 100 referrals from one of their readers that stated on a T-P forum:

    If Jefferson residents want some real reporting, they should put down their newspaper and pick up this blog.

    http://slabbed.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/there-is-a-broussard-in-the-woodpile-part-deux-the-times-picayune-carries-water-for-da-connick-and-misses-a-chance-for-jazz-slabbed-passes-out-the-razz/

    And yes we will be fleshing out the connections to the late Wendell Gauthier, perhaps as early as today.

    I like the old line media on balance and have great respect for local reporters like Rebecca Mowbray, Anita Lee and Jeff Amy to name a few. That said the profession has boxed themselves in when their standards and practices means they ignore evidence of wrongdoing in a public court record simply because the case settled instead having a jury verdict. We’re not similarily constrained.

    The bottom line is people yearn for the truth and often times they end up with spin. It is why the public as a whole so distrusts the old line media IMHO.

    sop

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