Whistleblower reveals ethics complaint against Scott Angelle, Robert Benoit

by Mike Stagg

Landman-turned-whistleblower Dan Collins said publicly in a radio program this week that he long ago filed an ethics complaint against his former superiors at DNR that was deferred pending the outcome of his suit.

Dan Collins
Photo by Robin May

Whistleblower Dan Collins revealed in a Baton Rouge radio interview Wednesday that he has a pending 6-year-old ethics complaint against two of his superiors at the Department of Natural Resources.

In an interview with Wayne Parker on WHYR, Collins, a landman by trade, said he filed ethics complaints against DNR’s then-secretary Scott Angelle and the Atchafalaya Basin Program’s Robert Benoit for their failure to act on wrongdoing Collins uncovered in connection with what was billed as a water quality improvement project on Bayou Postillion. Collins had been hired to do land title work on that project by the ABP. He later discovered that the project had actually dredged the bayou to make it wide enough to accommodate drilling barges and had opened up the area to the drilling of seven wells.

Scott Angelle
Photo by Robin May

Collins won his whistleblower lawsuit against DNR in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge last December in which he charged that he and his firm had been cut out of land title work for DNR and the ABP after he blew the whistle on the Bayou Postillion project.

At an oil and gas industry trade show in Houston in 2007, Collins discovered that the state, through DNR’s Office of Mineral Resources, had leased its mineral rights under Bayou Postillion and other water bottoms in the area. He later learned that maps produced by OMR in the mineral lease process had been altered to camouflage the actual location of tracts where the wells were drilled at the end of the water quality project.

“I found that in the public bid process the name on the bayou had been changed in order to throw off competitors and environmentalists,” Collins said.

Collins told the program host that he was obligated under the terms of his contract with DNR to report any wrongdoing he identified.

“I brought what I had found to Secretary [Scott] Angelle and to Robert Benoit after I discovered that what had been described as a water quality project to benefit fisherman and crawfishermen had seven wells sitting at the end of it,” Collins said, adding that it took him three years to put all the pieces together of what had happened.

Robert Benoit

Collins told The Independent in a phone interview that he filed a single ethics complaint naming Angelle and Benoit on Dec. 23, 2010. Collins said the state Board of Ethics had deferred action on his complaint pending the outcome of his whistleblower lawsuit. The jury verdict on Collins’ behalf is being appealed by the state, which is being represented by the Lafayette firm of Oats & Marino.

Angelle is now a public service commissioner running for Congress, and Benoit works for Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux as his confidential assistant.

Collins said his ethics complaint caused an uproar when he was questioned about it by his attorney during in his trial.

“The attorneys for DNR immediately objected to the introduction of it in my testimony,” Collins said. “After about 45 minutes of argument between my attorney Crystal Bounds and attorneys for the other side, Crystal proffered my complaint into the record. She then asked me if I had continued to seek a remedy for the wrongdoing I believed I had exposed. I said, yes, I had. She asked how. I told the court I had filed an ethics against my superiors, Secretary Angelle and Mr. Benoit.”

Collins did not reveal the content of his complaint in the radio interview or during his interview with The IND.

You can hear the WHYR interview with Collins here.