Settlement reached over state's multi-million dollar melting ice whistle-blower case
BATON ROUGE - A fired state worker will settle his whistle-blower lawsuit.
Bruce Ellis believed he was fired from his job at the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness after speaking up about what he thought was waste in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. Ellis said the state spent millions of dollars on ice before the storm but it was never used. Instead, Ellis said in previous WBRZ reports, the ice was allowed to melt.
"I'm a taxpayer... I have some responsibility to make sure it's not wasted," Ellis said in an interview in December 2012.
Ellis and his attorney, Jill Craft, argued Ellis' point with video (attached to this story) showing ice melting at a warehouse at Angola.
In a previous report, Craft commented on the video: "Look at the forklifts," she said referencing the video. "One (referencing a specific piece of equipment in footage) starts doing donuts in the ice." Craft and Ellis insinuated workers were playing around on melting ice after trucks brought the ice to the State Penitentiary.
Craft said Monday she could not comment on the settlement but said it would be finalized in about two weeks.
A year after the initial TV report on WBRZ, the Office of the State Inspector General highlighted its concerns with the ice situation. State inspectors said GOHSEP bought 45 million pounds of ice for $17.4 million but only used about $2.3 million worth of ice. In its response to the findings by the Inspector General, GOHSEP said allowing the ice to melt was a cheaper solution than having it sit in refrigerated trucks, racking up further charges. The state disaster office said it gave away as much ice as possible to restaurants, seafood suppliers and other industries.
The need for ice was an issue following Hurricane Katrina when disaster supplies where few and far between. GOHSEP acknowledged projecting the need of ice during a storm is difficult but after not having enough in 2005 then too much for Issac, the agency made changes to handle situations better in the future.
GOHSEP did not comment on the settlement.
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