Billboard Advertiser Whistle-blower Says He Poisoned Trees

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

Tallahassee, FL -- September 8, 2011 --

He worked for Florida’s largest billboard company. His job, he says, was poisoning trees that block signs. Robert Barnhart was let go last month. On September 7th, he filed a whistle-blower lawsuit in Federal Court.

A tree on Capital Circle near Tom Brown Park in Tallahassee is dying because Robert Barnhart poisoned it. According to a complaint he filed in federal court, a supervisor at his job with Lamar Advertising, told him to poison trees blocking billboards.

“Right above that branch is where we drilled the hole,” said Barnhart.

Barnhart says he climbed the tree, drilled a hole above this branch and poured in poison.

“It’s definitely dying. It’s a result of the chemical. The reason why it was poisoned is because it’s in the way of the billboard,” said Barnhart.

The tree should look like the tree right next to it, green and full of life, but all of the leaves have fallen off and pieces of bark are all along the ground. Soon, the city will come chop it down.

Barnhart filed a lawsuit against Lamar in Federal Court Wednesday. The suit claims Barnhart was given a machete, told to hack at the root system, and then pour poison on the cut.

“I was driven around the day before and showed the locations to poison and told, come in an unmarked truck, don’t wear a Lamar logo, wear dust mask and kitchen gloves and poison the trees,” said Barnhart.

Killing large trees without a permit is a felony. In this written complain Barnhart told the company he want nothing to do with killing trees. The lawsuit claims he was let go after filing the complaint. His Attorney Steve Andrews says Lamar was trying to quiet Barnhart.

“No one wants a whistle-blower working for them in a big corporation,” said Andrews.

Barnhart was given immunity by the state attorney. He’s suing Lamar for his old job back plus damages. Lamar says the claims are false and calls Barnhart a disgruntled worker.

Lamar Advertising didn’t have anyone in Tallahassee today to speak on camera about the lawsuit, but we were able to reach Barnhart’s former boss Danny Funderburgh on the phone. Funderburgh says he never received a complaint from Barnhart and he’s still actually on the payroll. As for their policy regarding trees that block signs, Funderburgh said “we do not have a policy to kill trees or remove any trees. Lamar Advertising follows city and state regulations.”

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  • by believer Location: Indiana on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:32 AM
    Lamar is across the US not just Tallahassee how many trees have they destroyed?? Without Men/women like Robert Barnhart taking a stand thousands of beautiful trees may have, or will be destroyed. Stand tall Robert your doing a great thing!!
  • by Who Location: Here on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM
    Who does care. If Who didn't care then they might step in dog poop left by Who didn't care.
  • by Charlotte Location: Canton,NC on Sep 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM
    After careful consideration,and reading the article numerous times,my opinion stands behind Robert Barnhart! When employees are given a job to do and they have a family,mortages,and all that goes into,raising a family you do your job!!!And for the opinionater that said he is just doing this scince being canned,You need to re-read where Lamar claims he is still on the payroll!!!!Mr.Barnhart has rights as each of us Americans do&therefore he is doing what he and many many others feel was a honest and conscientious act..As hard as it is in this economy to obtain and keep a job you have to follow job orders. So unless you have been in his situation how can you judge what you would do to take care of your family?I commend you for being man enough to take this stand!!!!Best of luck to you!!!!
  • by Dianne on Sep 9, 2011 at 09:08 PM
    I agree with Anonymous. Times are very hard and good paying jobs are hard to find. And, if Robert is still "on the payroll", why is he having to fight to get his job back? It's easy to say what we would do, but would it be easy to do it if we were faced with same situation? It was a very tough decision for Robert and I, for one, am proud of him.
    • reply
      by J on Sep 13, 2011 at 09:39 AM in reply to Dianne
      ME TOO
  • by worker on Sep 9, 2011 at 11:28 AM
    Why do you bumpkins blame workers for everything? do you think it's that easy to get a job? And all y'all have lived sterling lives of honor, never fearing your own safety and livelihood for doing the right thing. Bullhockey! Lamar is just another example of corporate greed that is destroying this country. They lie with impunity and support career criminals like Rick Scott. When oh when will you country bumpkins wake up and smell the coffee? do you think this is an isolated event? Y'all claim to be patriots but you don't understand the basics of our legal system and why the Constitution protects whistleblowers. Standing up for your rights is not whining; you loser sheep who blindly follow Boss Hawg and corporate thugs are the whiners.
    • reply
      by richard on Sep 9, 2011 at 03:12 PM in reply to worker
      join a union scum bag...when was your last claim on a former employee?
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Sep 13, 2011 at 09:39 AM in reply to richard
        join a union!??? not all workers have that option. where do you work. union for you. great if you have one.
  • by Bob Location: Tallahassee on Sep 9, 2011 at 08:12 AM
    Even if true (doubtful), in the scheme of things, considering everything we have going on in this country and world, WHO CARES. BTW, is the 'Bama redneck who poisoned the Toomer's Corner tree out on bail? He could be a serial killer. Anyone ever consider that? Think about it. We should have the tree cut up and donated it to the firewood alliance to warm homes this winter so those without heat can be warm. Nature produces more cellulose (i.e., wood) than any other naturally occurring substance, by a wide margin. It's Tallahassee man, not the rainforest...get a life, and get another job, instead of trying to come up with excuses for why you lost the one you had.
    • reply
      by j on Sep 13, 2011 at 09:36 AM in reply to Bob
      you are one sicko. get a life
  • by Bigcanopy on Sep 9, 2011 at 07:40 AM
    So that is what happened to those trees in front of Famous Dave's that were blocking the electronic billboard. Kinda funny how only the one's in front or near the billboard died and those behind it are still ok.
  • by what a shame on Sep 9, 2011 at 06:10 AM
    He should have come forward BEFORE the trees were killed.
    • reply
      by prismile on Sep 9, 2011 at 08:46 AM in reply to what a shame
      totally agree....he's just as guilty as he's the one who actually did it whether 'following orders' or not, he knew then that it was a bad thing to do and did it anyway. They should all be held accountable.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Sep 9, 2011 at 02:55 PM in reply to what a shame
      He was probably afraid to in this economy. He may have felt he needed the money to feed his family and that his family was more important than a tree.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 9, 2011 at 03:16 AM
    I do.
  • by Think about it Location: Tallahassee on Sep 8, 2011 at 07:39 PM
    Did someone hold a gun to his head to make him poison those trees?? What this dude did was a felony, and he never would have opened his mouth about what he did if he hadn't had been canned.
    • reply
      by j on Sep 13, 2011 at 09:34 AM in reply to Think about it
      he got canned after he filled on them. REREAD THE STORY
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