BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A former worker for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security is taking the State to court. Bruce Ellis claims he was fired after he blew the whistle on what he refers to as a waste of your money during Hurricane Isaac. Here is what he claims went on behind the scenes.
As soon as Hurricane Isaac declared a path on the coast of Louisiana, the state put its plan into action. Bruce Ellis, who was the Assistant Operation Section Chief for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), says he was brought in to assist with planning logistics; things like points of distribution, ordering ice, tarps, etc.
"I had a chart where we could estimate cost of all those commodities that had to be brought in and people to run those 45 pods," said Ellis.
Ellis says just before Isaac made landfall, the State ordered 50 more pods at the tune of $20 million. That also meant ordering more tarps and ice. Ellis says the state had 17,000 tarps stored. GOHSEP ordered 113,000 for Isaac and a second at order of 19,000 at a cost of $11.9 million, bringing the total amount in tarps to more than $13 million.
"We gave away 113,000 tarps during a cat 2 storm, how many roofs really needed a tarp," said Ellis.
But Ellis says it was the ice request that really got under his skin. He claims the state initially ordered 250 truck loads for the pod locations, then turned around and ordered 350 more. Those trucks had to be transported and stored in refrigerated trucks. That's an $1,800 fee per truck at 20 pod sites for nine days; a price tag of $324,000.
Ellis says when the State realized they didn't need that much ice they tried to return it, which cost the state even more money.
"I received an email I didn't quite understand and asked some questions and then I found out we were moving trucks to Lacombe where vender was going to buy back ice for 250 truck loads and we were to send 250 trucks there to download ice," said Ellis.
Cell phone video shows what Ellis says is the returned ice being used as an ice skating rink for the workers at the Pelican Ice Warehouse in Lacomb, LA. Ellis say he had something to say something to his supervisors.
"I'm a tax payer just like you and everybody else and I think it's wrong to waste materials," said Ellis.
Ellis says he was fired for speaking up. His attorney, Jill Craft, says the State's misuse of tax dollars could not have come at a worse time.
"The leadership in this state constantly tells us that we're short on money, our budget is tight and we can't fund higher education and here we're going to go and buy 600 truckloads of ice when it's unnecessary and pay a vendor back to let it melt in their warehouse," says Craft.
Ellis says that is why he spoke up.
"We need to get this out and we need to stop this insanity of spending these kind of dollars for something that's not warranted," said Ellis.
The following statement is from GOHSEP, regarding the lawsuit filed today by a former employee:
"We can't speak to the allegations because GOHSEP hasn't been served with a lawsuit, and contact with his legal counsel after the termination was the first time we'd heard of Mr. Ellis allegedly acting as a "whistleblower." In every disaster, we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, and our response to Isaac was no different."