Communities Against a Radioactive Environment
Tara Dorabji, Tri-Valley CAREs, Livermore, CA (925) 443-7148
Scott Kovac, Nuclear Watch of New Mexico (505) 989-7342
Nuclear "Watchdogs" Announce Partnership To Prepare Bid For Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Lab
WHAT: Press Briefing prior to University of California (UC) Regents Meeting
WHEN: Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 9:15 AM
WHERE: UC San Francisco - Laurel Heights Campus, 3333 California St., San Francisco (map: http://www.ucsf.edu/maps/lhts.html), outside the public entrance to the conference room.
WHO: Tri-Valley CAREs, UC students, faculty and trial lawyers who have defended whistleblowers at the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons labs
California's premier nuclear weapons "watchdog" organization will announce on January 20, 2005 that it has joined a New Mexico non-profit to prepare a bid to manage the troubled Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), which is currently managed by the UC Regents.
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), will hold a news conference to discuss its plans just before the Board of Regents meeting on Thursday morning at the UC San Francisco Laurel Heights Campus. The group will partner with Nuclear Watch of New Mexico to prepare the bid. Nuclear Watch is a Santa Fe-based group that is responding to the draft "Request for Proposals" to manage Los Alamos. Tri-Valley CAREs will be joined by the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California, UC student leaders, faculty and others who are supporting the groups' plans.
"Our bid to run Los Alamos will demonstrate how laboratory managers can work with community members and facility employees to safeguard public health and clean up the environmental mess caused by nuclear weapons development," explained Tara Dorabji, Outreach Director for Tri-Valley CAREs, which monitors the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "The University of California has left contamination stemming from leaks, spills and accidents at Los Alamos. We will show that the manager's role should be to clean up, not cover up."
"By joining forces with Nuclear Watch of New Mexico and preparing a bid, we believe we will be in an excellent position to influence the entire process," said Marylia Kelley, Tri-Valley CAREs' Executive Director. Specifically, the non-profit consortium's goals include influencing the LANL management contract in four ways. "We seek to ensure that the new management contract will increase openness, improve health and safety provisions for workers and communities, strengthen whistleblower protections, and provide incentive points for bringing more civilian science to LANL," Kelley explained.
Josh Kearns, a graduate student in environmental science at UC Berkeley, added, "Current weapons projects at LANL are contrary to the University of California's mission to provide a public service. Moreover, they undermine the University's reputation. Under the 'watchdog' consortium's direction, LANL's research will focus on projects to reduce the damage from climate change, develop sustainable alternative energy sources, and protect the public from the lab's contaminated soil, water and air."
UC has managed Los Alamos for the Department of Energy (DOE) and predecessor agencies, since the lab's creation in 1943. After repeated security and fiscal management scandals, DOE decided in April 2003 to open competition for the Los Alamos contract for the first time. UC's current contract expires on September 30, 2005. The University is expected to bid to continue its management role, though it has yet to make a formal decision.
Scott Kovac, Operations Director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, welcomed the California group to the new team bidding to manage Los Alamos. "Excellent science with a focus on environmental cleanup will be at the center of our proposal. The addition of Tri-Valley CAREs will strengthen our bid as we move forward."
UC Berkeley physicist, Professor Emeritus Charlie Schwartz endorsed the consortium's bid. "UC's role has been to provide a cloak of academic respectability to the development of weapons of mass destruction. Recently U.S. government officials have found UC's management skills to be inadequate and sought competing proposals. The idea of converting the weapons lab to a center for constructive civilian research makes great sense, and it should appeal to many of those who now work at the Los Alamos bomb factory."
After Tri-Valley CAREs and the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California outline the consortium's goals and next steps in the bidding process, trial attorney Gary Gwilliam, will document some of UC's failures to protect whistleblowers and safeguard workers. Gwilliam, a senior partner in the Oakland-based firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli and Brewer, has represented many Lawrence Livermore employees who claim to have experienced retaliation for exposing hazards, fraud and discrimination.
Tri-Valley CAREs was founded in Livermore in 1983 to monitor activities in the DOE nuclear weapons complex, with a special focus on the nearby Lawrence Livermore Lab. The group's 4,500 members work to promote nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, ensure cleanup of the Cold War legacy of radioactive and toxic pollution, safeguard the environment from further contamination, and enhance worker and public participation in decision-making. (www.trivalleycares.org)
The Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California consists of student groups on UC campuses at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, as well as the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the Western States Legal Foundation, Nevada Desert Experience, and Tri-Valley CAREs.
Nuclear Watch of New Mexico provides information to the public on nuclear issues in the Southwest and encourages effective citizen involvement around these concerns. The group promotes environmental protection, safe disposal of radioactive wastes, and federal policy changes to curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons. (www.nukewatch.org)
(Below is a copy of attorney Gary Gwilliam's press release and then his longer press statement.)
Lab Workers Call for Regents to Make Changes, Contending Unfair and Illegal
News Conference Thursday, January 20, 2005, 9:15 A.M. UC San Francisco - Laurel Heights Campus, 333 California St., San Francisco (map: http://www.ucsf.edu/maps/lhts.html ), Outside the Public Entrance to the Conference Room
OAKLAND, Calif., Jan. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- The Regents of the University of California are meeting on January 20, 2005, to discuss issues relating to bidding on new contracts for the nuclear weapons labs at Los Alamos and possibly the Livermore Lab. They are also considering various issues including claims by workers at the Lab who have cases for unfair treatment and wrongful termination.
Attorney J. Gary Gwilliam has issued a media statement with regard to numerous court cases showing an ongoing pattern of unfair and illegal treatment of employees, particularly at the Lawrence Livermore Lab, as well as the Los Alamos Lab. (See the media statement below.) The University of California (UC), which manages the Labs, needs to look at these issues and institute management reforms, particularly with regard to the human resources practices at Livermore and the way the in-house Lab counsel handles these matters.
Dee Kotla and Tristan Pico will be present at the news conference to discuss their experiences. Both these women have won wrongful termination cases after long jury trials. The Lab has appealed both of their cases. Dee Kotla was fired after she testified against them in a sexual harassment case. Tristan Pico was fired while on disability and won a disability discrimination lawsuit for wrongful termination.
In short, we are calling for the Livermore Lab to institute and implement new policies with regard to fair, decent and legal treatment of their employees. This would include:
-- Implementing current laws for whistleblowers
-- Strictly enforcing all discrimination laws
-- A complete change in the Human Resources Department, which for years has done nothing to protect the workers
-- Make changes in the legal counsel's office for the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
- The Laboratory counsel's office has consistently supported Human Resources and management in all their terminations and denials of retaliation claims and not performed their independent duty to make sure the workers are treated fairly
- Lab counsel was found liable for retaliation against Dee Kotla in a jury trial in 2002 and was never disciplined - Janet Tulk, Associate Director, Administration & Human Resources, and senior legal counsel, has done nothing to change these practices. -- The Lab needs to stop wasting money on litigation
- Congress, U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General's Office, The General Accounting Office, as well as some members of Congress, have continually questioned the policy of the Department of Energy reimbursing UC and the Lab for all litigation expenses. This policy encourages the Lab and UC to spend an endless amount of money on attorneys and costs in litigation that is unnecessary.
The press conference will take place in conjunction with the Livermore, CA-based Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment) and other member organizations of the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California. These UC and Department of Energy "watchdog" organizations will announce their partnership with Nuclear Watch of NewMexico to bid for the management contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The non-profit consortium's goals include influencing the LANL management contract in four ways: increasing openness, improving health and safety provisions for workers and communities, strengthening whistleblower protections, and providing incentive points for bringing more civilian science to the lab.
U.C. Has Failed to Reform Livermore Lab Management; New Contractor May Be Needed, Leading Attorney Says
University of California (UC) mismanagement of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has created "an intolerably hostile and discriminatory workplace" for its employees, says Atty. J. Gary Gwilliam, who stated that UC must remedy the problem if they are to have any chance at being successful in competing for the new contract at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.
The University of California has had a no-bid contract with the Department of Energy to run the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory for 53 years. However, it is likely that will change and the Lab will be up for bid with other contractors in the year 2006.
LLNL supervisors and the Human Resources Department routinely "retaliate against employees who report security violations, health and safety hazards, financial irregularities, sexual discrimination and harassment as well as routinely engage in racial, sexual, age, and disability discrimination," Atty. Gwilliam said.
"Instead of fixing problems, management goes into denial, wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on legal battles seeking immunity instead of attempting to resolve the problem"
"The outrageous and unfair treatment of these employees continues to this date as shown by the evidence from numerous cases," he said. "The evidence makes plain that the mismanagement continues unabated."
Atty. Gwilliam is senior partner in the Oakland-based law firm of Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli and Brewer. He is past president of Consumer Attorneys of California (formerly the California Trial Lawyers Association), and immediate past national president of Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.
He cited examples from some cases he has worked on to prove his point regarding UC mismanagement of LLNL:
"Livermore lab management tolerates sexual harassment and punishes those who speak up against it."
See the case of Dee Kotla v. Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, Alameda County Case No.: CV014799, set for trial on February 10, 2005. "Ms. Kotla was fired after she testified as a witness for a fellow employee who had been subjected to sexual harassment by a manager," Atty. Gwilliam said. Management claimed it was justified in discharging Ms. Kotla because she incurred $4.30 of personal phone charges. A jury found UC liable for retaliation and rejected management's claims of computer misuse. UC spent more than $1 million on outside counsel opposing Ms. Kotla, who won a jury verdict including damages, costs and attorney's fees, which added up to more than $2.1 million. An appeals court overturned the verdict on a technicality not affecting the merits of the case. It is clear from the evidence that another jury will probably reach the same result in the second trial and the taxpayers will have to pay millions of more dollars for litigation expenses including attorney's fees and costs for both sides."
"The lab covers up potentially dangerous defects, muzzling honest employees, even in its biggest boondoggle, the multi-billion-dollar Nuclear Ignition Facility (NIF)."
See Miklosy and Messina v. Lawrence Livermore Lab, Alameda County Case No. RG 04140484 is a good example. "Les Miklosy was fired and Luciana Messina was forced out of her job after they reported costly and potentially hazardous flaws in the giant NIF project. The head of the Human Resources Department and LLNL counsel conspired with top executives to silence my clients and sweep their scandal under the rug. California has the nation's strongest whistleblower protection law, which UC emasculates by saying lab employees may not sue without lab management's permission.
"The University of California and the DOE should support the Whistleblowing Law instead of trying to find legal loopholes to avoid it" Atty. Gwilliam said.
"In this case, UC filed a demurrer to the complaint. According to the demurrer, just because management had made a finding against the employees internally (with no hearing, nor participation by Miklosy and Messina's attorney), UC alleged that, under the technical language of the law, they could automatically have the case dismissed. Unfortunately, a lower in Alameda County bought into this technicality and the matter is on appeal. This is simply bad policy and the Legislature should take immediate action to resolve the matter."
"The Lab retaliates against employees who report financial mismanagement."
An example is the case of Michele Doggett - Doggett v. Regents of the University of California, Alameda County Case No. 829359-4. "Management misuses millions of dollars of taxpayer funds, and gets rid of anyone who dares to tell the truth about it," Atty. Gwilliam said. "Michelle Doggett, a resource manager, was fired after she complained of financial irregularities at Livermore. UC paid $815,900 for outside counsel to fight her claim, but later settled and paid $990,000 for her damages and costs. The lab said the misappropriated funds she disclosed amounted to 'only $32,000' but, soon after settling her case, they admitted it was in the millions."
"The lab disdains nuclear safety and retaliates against those who speak up about serious violations."
For example, nuclear engineer David Lappa (David Lappa v. LLNL, Alameda County Case No. V-015785-4), an expert on human factor analysis in plutonium operations, was demoted after he refused to cover up evidence of willful violation of plutonium safety regulations. The U.S. Department of Labor ordered the lab to reinstate Mr. Lappa to his former position and awarded back pay and other monetary damages. Management then stepped up its retaliation, forcing Mr. Lappa out of his job. UC spent about $1 million opposing his lawsuit in court, but later agreed to a substantial monetary settlement.
"The lab discriminates against the disabled, firing good employees instead of providing the reasonable accommodation that the law mandates."
For example, see Tristan Pico v. Regents of the University of California, Alameda County Case No. 2002-060035). "Tristan Pico, an environmental engineer, was denied reasonable accommodation and was fired without cause. UC could have settled the case for a reasonable sum, but instead went to a six- week trial -- resulting in a jury verdict for the plaintiff, who won damages of $200,000 and attorneys' fees and costs of almost $800,000. This verdict was rendered on June 29, 2004. Adding costs and fees for the UC attorneys, it appears that UC spent almost $2 million spent on this case."
"The lab has discriminated against women employees and underpaid them for many years."
In the case of Singleton, et al. v. U.C. Regents, a class action representing almost 3,000 women, "it was clearly proved that the lab had paid men more than women for at least 25 years. This significant pay-equity, gender discrimination case eventually settled for approximately $17 million. The settlement terms included injunctive relief to ensure that there would be no further pay inequity or discrimination. As a result of this case, the way women employees are evaluated for pay raises was significantly changed. UC spent $13,732,507 for outside counsel to oppose unequal-wage claims by Mary Singleton and other female employees in this major class action. And yet there are indications that mistreatment of women in the Lab persists to this day."
Other LLNL mismanagement cases have include these:
"The lab has retaliated against and fired police officers who pointed security problems at the lab."
SWAT team members Mathew Zipoli and Charles Quinones, officers of the LLNL Protective Service Officers Association, were fired after they complained about safety and security deficiencies. An arbitrator ordered LLNL to reinstate Mr. Zipoli in his job. He later left the lab when he and Mr. Quinones received a monetary settlement from UC.
"The lab has discriminated against racial minorities for decades."
Asian Pacific employees filed a class action charging wage discrimination. They have been engaged in settlement talks after going to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to complain about this longstanding pattern of discrimination.
"Livermore Lab management continues to disregard the health and safety of employees and the community."
New cases reportedly are being brought by a 911 dispatcher discharged for complaining about workplace health and safety violations, and a technology group leader demoted for reporting mismanagement in the lab's plutonium building.UC also mismanages its other nuclear weapons lab:
Similar management problems have been highly publicized at LLNL's sister lab in New Mexico, the Los Alamos National Laboratory LANL), also operated by UC. Atty. Gwilliam was co-counsel in the case of Glenn Walp, who won a settlement of almost $1 million. Mr. Walp, head of the LANL Office of Security Inquiries, and investigator Steve Doran, had been wrongfully discharged after they reported security breaches and financial irregularities.
In an infamous case at Los Alamos, officials trumped up spy allegations against an Asian American scientist, Wen Ho Lee.CONCLUSION:
"I have been a plaintiff's lawyer for more than 35 years and have handled many employment cases," Atty. Gwilliam says. "The conduct by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory management, in my opinion, is the most outrageous example of ongoing retaliation, discrimination and harassment of employees that I have ever seen.
"They abuse their employees, they waste public funds fighting legitimate claims and, even when they lose, they refuse to admit wrongdoing or take proper corrective actions.
"In dozens of cases, UC has argued that it is immune from being sued for wrongdoing. This claim of immunity is terrible policy for a public university managing our nation's nuclear facilities. These labs should be managed by people who will meet a higher standard of public trust.
"Unfortunately, UC has no accountability for the attorney's fees and costs in these cases, since they are routinely paid by the U.S. Department of Energy. Therefore, there is no incentive for UC to enter into reasonable settlement negotiations, nor to correct the problems addressed by the claims.
"The cases and examples I have cited are only the tip of the iceberg," Atty. Gwilliam said. "They involve cases that our firm has dealt with or had knowledge of. I'm certain that there are many other cases of which I am unaware. It's obvious that there are many other employees who have been treated just as badly as the ones in these cases, but who have never come forward for fear of retaliation. The publicly known cases are a small fraction of the iceberg of a monumental employee relations problem at the Lawrence Livermore Lab.
"I have taken the depositions of all the human resources people in the Lab and many of the management people. I have also had extensive dealings with the in-house counsel for the Lab. There has to be some significant reform of these departments in order for the Lab and UC to begin to make needed major changes in the way they deal with their employees. It has to start with a new Human Resources Director and a commitment to dealing fairly with the employees. If that cannot be accomplished then new contractor to manage the Lab may be the only answer."
Source: Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli & Brewer