We wanted to call your attention to a story in yesterday’s New York Times about Dr. Ivor van Heerden, researcher, author, and former deputy director of the Louisiana State University (LSU) Hurricane Center. Dr. van Heerden is one of those people who exemplifies POGO’s mission: exposing systemic problems in government, and then identifying solutions to solve the problems. However, like others who have that mission, Dr. van Heerden has faced a number of obstacles in his goal of change, including the loss of his job.
As you will see in the article, and in this press conference on Wednesday, Dr. van Heerden has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Louisiana state court alleging that LSU officials waged a multi-year campaign of retaliatory harassment against him after he led a team that conducted a comprehensive investigation into the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and made critical comments concerning the failure of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to safeguard the city of New Orleans. (LSU gets federal funding from the Corps.)
POGO has spoken to Dr. van Heerden, who has testified before Congress, and wrote a bestselling book, The Storm, in which he attributed 80 – 90 percent of the flooding in New Orleans to the Corps’ levee design failures, and found him to be an inspiring public servant.
It is especially disturbing when someone in the teaching profession is removed for speaking out, as it sends a message to future generations that reporting fraud, waste, and abuse, is not a job duty.
-- Ingrid Drake
Photo of the New Orleans East levee by Flickr user New Orleans Lady.