On Monday, Louisiana landman and whistleblower Dan Collins again prevailed at the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge — this time on the issue of reimbursement of all legal fees and expenses in his longstanding whistleblower suit against the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources.
“This has been a long and difficult battle exposing the corruption of the previous administrations,” says Collins. “There was such an overwhelming amount of information presented to the jury which resulted in the verdict and our victory."
The legal brawl involves several current and former state officials taking part in an intricate web of spending millions of taxpayer dollars in phony environmental projects by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources for the better part of a decade, according to Collins' suit. What Collins maintains were fraudulent "water quality" projects spanned the administrations of three state governors.
Collins maintains that the scheme earned a cabal of lawyers, landowners and oil and gas companies a small fortune while illegally dredging Bayou Postillion in the Atchafalaya Basin for oil under the pretense of “water quality.” In December a jury sided with Collins, awarding him a $750,000 judgment against the state after determining he had been improperly denied contracts from DNR in retaliation for his decision to alert authorities about the agency’s wrongdoings.
On April 18 a hearing was held to allow the presiding judge the opportunity to overrule the decision of the jury and reverse or amend the verdict, but Collins also prevailed at that hearing.
“Prevailing in the trial and the recent [Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict hearing] hearing where the state requested the judge to throw out the jury's verdict or grant the state a new trial and now having the judge agree there should be reimbursement of plaintiff's legal costs and expenses has been very rewarding,” says Collins. “It is my belief should the state appeal, this administration will be supporting and condoning the corruption of its predecessors.”
Collins tells ABiz he hopes those who committed the environmental violations and misrepresentations within the public bidding process for state lands (water bottoms) regarding oil and gas leasing are eventually held accountable for their actions. That includes officials within state government who knew and allowed those activities to occur, he says.
Collins believes the jury clearly saw how state and federal dollars in the alleged name of coastal restoration and water quality were spent, wasted and abused.
“Hundreds of millions of federal dollars to protect Louisiana's environment are supposed to be headed to our state while a select group has managed to manipulate and profit for personal gain and benefit,” he says. “This activity went to the top of state government with the previous administration.”
Collins wonders whether things will be different with the Edwards administration.
“Will Gov. John Bel Edwards finally put a stop to the good ole boy system in Louisiana?” asks Collins. “Certainly the Jindal administration didn't stop corruption or incompetence within state government as promised. Time will tell, Gov. Edwards, time will tell.”