By Tom Gogola, The Lens staff writer |

From Erin Brockovich to WikiLeaks, whistleblowers play a critical role in forcing transparency and accountability on corporate and public-sector shenanigans.

New Orleans has had more than its share of shenanigans worthy of whistleblowing in recent years, from police brutality after Hurricane Katrina to unpacking the slippery utterances from British Petroleum after the disastrous 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The importance of truth-seeking whistleblowers will be the topic of a panel discussion Tuesday at Tulane University. The event is part of the Government Accountability Project’s American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability. It is sponsored by the Government Accountability Project, in conjunction with Tulane University and the New Orleans Coalition on Open Governance.

The panel will feature Scott Porter, a diver who said he’s suffering the effects of diving into the BP oil plume without adequate warning from the federal agency that sent him down, and New Orleans Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. They’ll be joined by Sandy Rosenthal, founder of; Adam Babich of the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic; Steve Beatty, managing editor of The Lens; and Tom Devine, legal director at the Government Accountability Project, based in Washington, D.C.

Porter, who is also a biologist and works with the nonprofit organization EcoRigs, said that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration did not give him enough warning about toxicity in the Gulf before requesting that he dive into the BP oil plume to take water samples on their behalf.

Hutson runs the civilian office that reviews New Orleans police investigations, part of the city’s Office of Inspector General

The American Whistleblower Tour panel is Tuesday from 4 to 5:30 at the Kendall Cram Room in the Lavin-Bernick Center at Tulane. The nearest parking is on Newcomb Boulevard; the center is located near the corner of Freret Street and the McAllister Drive pedestrian mall.

The event is free – and of course it’s open to the public.