Cain Burdeau / The Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS -- A federal judge has given an outspoken former Louisiana State University hurricane expert -- allegedly fired because he was critical of the Army Corps of Engineers – a glimmer of hope in his two-year-old fight against LSU, ruling that Ivor van Heerden's whistleblower claims can proceed.
U.S. District Judge James J. Brady ruled July 7 to keep the case open. In February, Brady dismissed parts of van Heerden's case.
Van Heerden alleges LSU fired him fired him because he was hurting LSU's chances of getting federal money. He was told his job would be cut in April 2009. He had worked at the university for more than 15 years with a series of one-year contractual appointments.
LSU declined to comment on Brady's ruling.
Van Heerden is a coastal researcher and former state official who gained national exposure after Katrina for his blistering comments about the poor work by the Army Corps. In the media and in Congress, van Heerden charged that the corps' shoddy workmanship caused the flooding of New Orleans. He became a popular figure in Louisiana, wrote a book about the storm and led state investigations into levee failures.
In his ruling, Brady said there "are genuine issues of material fact." Brady added that LSU may have violated state law by seeking to stop him from expressing his opinions about the Army Corps and the causes of the flood.
"Unfortunately for van Heerden, the LSU administration and many of its faculty did not approve of his statements for fear they might cause the university to lose federal funding," Brady said in his ruling.
In February, Brady ruled against van Heerden, saying he was not entitled to tenure protection at LSU. That ruling was a blow to van Heerden's chances of getting his job back and getting compensated for his firing.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)