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Tom Van Lent's Legal Expenses

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Why Am I Seeking Your Help?

Suppose you were living this nightmare. Your deep-pocketed former employer sues you, claiming you stole trade secrets, yet refuses to tell you what those trade secrets are or even what information was allegedly stolen. Worse, they knew there was no contract between you and your employer, yet obtained an ex parte injunction, dishonestly stating that it is based on a breach of contract. The injunction, drafted by your employer, is so confusing and unclear that it would prevent you from using a computer, iPhone, or even a smart television and further require you to relinquish your phone, computer and even your spouse’s phone and credentials for all of your email accounts. What would you do?

That was the situation facing Dr. Van Lent. He chose to comply with the order so that his former employer, the Everglades Foundation, could see that he did not steal trade secrets. Prior to turning over everything that was demanded, he deleted personal information, like banking records, personal emails, photographs, personal texts and encrypted tax records and other sensitive personal data. His former employer brought a criminal contempt of court against him, claiming, among other things, that deletion of personal information violated the court order, and claiming the injunction gave them the right to peruse all of his personal information to determine if any of their undisclosed secrets were there. The judge that issued the order found him guilty and has sentenced him to 10 days in jail. Moreover, the Everglades Foundation has refused to release any of his email accounts or return his property.

Dr. Van Lent is appealing the contempt conviction, and will purse that appeal to the fullest extent possible. If allowed to stand, it means that any employee who signs that they received an employee manual will essentially have waived all rights to privacy for himself/herself and any members of their household. An employer would have unlimited rights to read your most private correspondence and take control of every aspect of your modern life, from monitoring your email down to controlling your thermostat. All without even having to reveal what they’re looking for exactly.

But even after the appeals on criminal contempt are resolved, the case will not be over. Indeed, it just means that we return to the suit filed by the Everglades Foundation nearly 2 years ago. The Everglades Foundation’s original claim of stealing trade secrets remains to be adjudicated, requiring a team of lawyers and computer experts. Dr. Van Lent is facing the prospect of years of legal battles with the intractable, hyper-aggressive and deep-pocketed Everglades Foundation. The costs have already driven him to bankruptcy and have depleted his retirement savings.

He needs both your financial help and your moral support. Dr. Van Lent has been a voice of truth for nearly 40 years in the realm of Everglades restoration, someone who speaks truth to power. Your support is an affirmation that you want this to stop, both because you find Dr. Van Lent a man of integrity and because these actions by the Everglades Foundation will ultimately harm Everglades restoration.

About Thomas Van Lent, PhD (click here for a more detailed narrative)

Dr. Van Lent has had a distinguished career as a scientist and engineer, with the bulk of his career working on computer models of America's Everglades. He has co-authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications on Everglades topics, including predicting plant and animal responses to water management and the effects of climate change.

He is also a marathon runner, a swimmer, an avid bike rider, and an eclectic reader. He is married to his college sweetheart, Lois (Clement) Van Lent, and has two grown sons. He once dared to volunteer as a soccer referee for the Florida High School Athletic Association - until he could no longer keep up with them! Tom and Lois spent nearly 26 years living in the Florida Keys and, during the pandemic in 2020, relocated to Tallahassee, Florida, where they now reside.

Tom grew up in South Dakota and graduated from Beresford High School, the Home of the Watchdogs. In 2021, he was inducted into his high school's Watchdog Hall of Fame Academics/Achievement !

In 1980, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in French Literature, from South Dakota State University. In 1982, he earned a Master's in Civil Engineering from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.

After earning his Master's Degree, he began his professional scientist career at the South Florida Water Management District, where he served for 4 years as a Water Resources Engineer. This role included developing computer models of South Florida's complex water management system and developing databases with hydrologic data.

In 1988, he went back to academia, to Stanford University, where in 1992 he earned his PhD in Civil Engineering.

In 1994, he went back to his first alma mater (South Dakota State University) and served for 2 years as Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering, where he taught water resources engineering, hydrology and fluid mechanics and conducted research on wetland processes. After he returned to Florida, Dr. Van Lent was featured in South Dakota State University’s promotional campaign, “You can go anywhere from here.”

In 1998, he began his distinguished 7-yr career of federal public service for the National Park Service at Everglades National Park: first as the Chief of Physical Sciences for the NPS South Florida Natural Resources Center, where he was later promoted and served as Deputy Director until 2005. During those 7 years, which included the early phases of implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), he integrated physical sciences, biological sciences, and water quality into resources management and wetland restoration efforts in Everglades National Park. As Chief Hydrologist, he also conducted research on Everglades wetland processes and investigations on the effects of water management on natural wetlands.

In 2005, he joined the Everglades Foundation, where he served for 17 years in various roles, including as Senior Scientist, Director of Science and Policy and Vice President for Programs. Dr. Van Lent was broadly responsible for coordinating scientific and technical efforts supporting Everglades restoration. He built a science program that gave a credible basis for advocacy, one that the entire Everglades community used as guidance for action. He has been directly and actively involved in nearly every major Everglades issue for the past two decades, from water quality litigation, Everglades restoration projects, water management operations, and development issues. He could be counted on to speak the truth despite often formidable opposition, and became highly regarded for the consistency, clarity and validity of his views.

In 2010, he received the Everglades Coalition's George M. Barley Conservationist of the Year Award for his ability to convey highly technical information in understandable terms to decision-makers on Everglades restoration.

Dr Tom Van Lent in A Broken Land , a short eco-documentary about the Everglades.

SCIENCE INSIDER, Vol 5, October 2020, in article titled "Bullet Casings And Brazilian Peppers" about the Nike Missile Base in Everglades National Park, published by the Everglades Foundation

"While I witnessed these restoration projects firsthand, my own connection to the missile base is a personal one. As a research scientist at the park, I had an office in one of the dorm rooms, and as the father of two young boys, I spent many weekends camping with them in Everglades National Park, exploring the area around Long Pine Key. While pine forests and marshes are interesting, nothing attracts small boys like old ruins, and the missile base was far and away their favorite. They loved scrabbling up the levees and hunkering in the old desks in the control bunkers the soldiers left behind. Park Law Enforcement used the bunker levees as backstops for target practice, leaving shell casings strewn about. For two young boys, ages 7 and 10, this was paradise, where playing soldier was not much of a stretch of the imagination. When the day came that the site was locked, the fences repaired, and the bullet casings cleaned up, their hearts were broken and they openly wept at the loss. Their secret place was gone, all in the name of historical preservation. Now the boys have grown into men, and their visits to the site as tourists evoke their childhood memories. Sometimes, what you love has to be preserved in memories. So, get out to the Everglades, go exploring, and make a memory that you’ll love." - Tom Van Lent



  • Parisa Bazl
    • $57 
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  • Anonymous
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  • Evan Batchelor
    • $150 
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  • Jose Azaustre
    • $175 
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  • Chris Cosner
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Organizer and beneficiary

Thomas Van Lent
Tallahassee, FL
Michael Rayboun

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