Trial starts Tuesday after day-long voir dire in whistleblower suit

Amelia Flood Jan. 13, 2010, 3:15am


Testimony got under way Tuesday in a whistleblower suit over alleged oil dumping in the Mississippi River.

Plaintiff Steven Howland is suing his former employer, American River Transportation Co. and its parent, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, for allegedly firing him for reporting the company's illegal dumping activities.

According to his complaint, Howland witnessed oil flowing into the Mississippi River while he was working at one of his employer's sites in St. Louis in 2007. He claims that later he became aware that it was normal for the company's vessels to flush their waste oil into sewers that flow into the waterway, although the practice violates state and federal law.

After discussing the matter with supervisors, he claims he was fired.

Later he was contacted by an attorney investigating the dumping, he states.

Howland is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, punitive damages, reinstatement to his former job and an order enjoining the defendants from retaliating against employees who report illegal activities.

Witnesses took the stand in the plaintiff's case Tuesday, continuing into the afternoon.

Employees of the defendants, such as Steve Judd, testified about how they were disciplined in relation to the 2007 dumping and for turning over logs to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Other employees testified about weigh-in procedures and forms that contained mistakes allegedly made by Howland during his time working for the company.

Defense and plaintiff's attorneys approached the bench three times during the testimony of three witnesses with issues. Defense raised several objections over relevancy during the afternoon's testimony.

Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder is presiding.

The trial will resume Wednesday.

Howland is represented by Lee Barron.

The defendants are represented by Timothy Wolfe and others.

The case is Madison case number 08-L-500.

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Organizations in this Story

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20460

Archer Daniels Midland
77 W Upper Wacker Dr
Chicago, IL 60601

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