Whistleblower Panel Discussion

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) presented The American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability at Tulane University on Tuesday, February 28th. This tour featured a panel presentation by prominent national and New Orleans-based speakers discussing how whistleblowers promote transparency and accountability in key issues facing local residents. Co-sponsored by GAP, Tulane University, and NOCOG, the Whistleblower Tour explored the relationship between whistleblowers and institutional support networks. The panel presentations covered four distinct cases of whistle-blowing in a context of institutional support.

Tom Devine of the Governmental Accountability Project discussed how GAP is assisting divers like Scott Porter in spreading the word about adverse impacts from the BP oil spill. Scott himself addressed the failure of either BP or the government to disclose the health consequences of diving in a toxic soup of dispersants and oil.

Ivor Van Heerden was the original whistleblower who established that design failures by the Corps of Engineers caused the flooding of New Orleans. In her remarks, Sandy Rosenthal discussed how a civic organization like Levees.Org was able to build upon the initial revelations in a continuing campaign that held the Corps accountable for its flood protection activities in subsequent years.

The Office of the Independent Police Monitor provides institutional support from within government for police informants who want to blow the whistle on police misconduct. IPM Susan Hutson discussed another institutional suppor from within government—a forthcoming consent decree with the Department of Justice that will likely transform NOPD operations.

Steve Beatty, Editor of The Lens (a NOCOG partner), said that investigative journalists couldn't do what they do without the assistance of whistleblowers. The press plays a unique role in supporting whistleblowers by publicizing misconduct based on the inside information they supply, then protecting these same vital sources of information from retaliation by vengeful employers.

Overall, the panel presentations made a compelling case for institutional supports to enhance the effectiveness of whistleblowers. Whistleblowers need and deserve the support of public interest law firms, civic organizations, governmental watchdogs, and members of the press. Whistleblowing is a civic virtue that holds businesses and government accountable for their actions. We are all beneficiaries of whistleblowing.