I-Team: Whistleblower investigation - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

I-Team: Whistleblower investigation

Two whistleblowers got a big win Monday in a court fight over the state's hazard mitigation grant program. 

The whistleblowers provided documents to the I-Team last August, some of the information allegedly shows certain contractors agreeing to one price for elevating a home, but in some cases, later increasing the price they submitted for reimbursement.

After the I-Team stories aired, the state asked Federal Judge Jim Brady to force the whistle blowers to return the documents, claiming they had disclosed personal homeowners' information.

"Obviously this whole notion that my clients stole documents or did anything inappropriate is ridiculous, it always has been," said Jill Craft, the whistle blowers' attorney.

In a motion filed last December, the state claimed the whistleblowers "stole documents and provided them to WAFB."

On Monday, the state, Shaw, and Jill Craft reached an agreement outside of court, hoping to end the matter.  It reads: "All parties expressly agree for the purpose of this hearing there has not been and is no determination that the plaintiffs "stole" any documents or otherwise obtained any documents inappropriately."

"I'm just pleased that this whole fallacy about my clients stealing documents is behind us," said Craft.

However, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said Wednesday that his office still maintains the documents were stolen.   On the issue of the stolen documents, a spokesperson for Rainwater says Craft is "materially misrepresenting our agreement".

The state also wanted the documents sealed, saying they included private homeowners' information, but Craft said all along that the papers were public record.

Everyone agreed that the whistleblowers could keep the documents, but must delete any personal information, such as: "Any social security numbers, financial account information, attorney client privileged information, then they will redact that information from public view."

"The whole notion that the state or anybody for that matter, tried to hide public documents from public view or the testimony of the commissioner of administration, we want this thing to go forward. We want the people and the taxpayers of this state and this country to know exactly what's happened with their tax dollars," said Craft.

The I-Team tried talking to Phyllis Cancienne, who is representing Shaw, and to John Dunlap, who is representing the state.  Both refused to comment.

Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater released this statement:  "We're glad Ms. Craft has finally agreed to stop fighting and has agreed to the protective order.  This will maintain the privacy of homeowner information which is contained in the documents her clients took without permission from the program."

Craft responded with "It's crazy because part of what my clients reported was the illegal selling over homeowner information by Shaw and state officials.  My clients never took any homeowner information.  If that's the position the state is taking, then we're not done fighting."

Within the next 10 days, all three parties plan to meet to review all the documents. 

Monday's court actions only involve one of the two suits.  The other centers on the whistleblowers' alleging corruption in the state-run hazard mitigation grant program.  A multi-agency investigation into those allegations is ongoing.

Copyright 2012 WAFB. All rights reserved.

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