Friday, March 04, 2005

2 LANL Whistle-Blowers Sue UC

Albuquerque Journal North
Friday, March 4, 2005

2 LANL Whistle-Blowers Sue UC

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Two Los Alamos National Laboratory whistle-blowers, both former internal auditors at the lab, filed a lawsuit against the University of California and five of its employees on Thursday alleging retaliation for their outspoken criticisms of what they claim are LANL's ongoing financial and procurement problems.

Chuck Montaño, a 26-year LANL veteran, and Tommy Ray Hook, who was hired by LANL in 1989, allege in the suit that LANL and University of California managers attempted to make their jobs so miserable in retaliation for uncovering management failures that they would be forced to resign.

The men name Richard Marquez, LANL's associate director for administration; John Bretzke; Vernon Brown; William Barr; and University of California head auditor Patrick Reed in their lawsuit.

The Santa Fe-based law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom and Schoenburg and the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Bernabei and Katz are representing the men. Bernabei and Katz represented LANL whistle-blowers Glenn Walp and Steve Doran in another suit filed against the university in 2003.

The two whistle-blowers claim that each of these men conspired to retaliate against them by "downgrading their performance evaluations, denying them positions and promotions for which they applied, denying them meaningful work, repeatedly threatening them with termination, and denigrating them to (U.S. Department of Energy) officials in order to silence them from speaking out publicly about matters of public concern... "

Hook and Montaño seek to have all adverse employment actions stricken from their employment histories, a return to meaningful work commensurate with their experience and at least $2 million each for economic damages and $2 million each for punitive damages.

Officials at the University of California, which operates LANL under contract for the DOE, say they take Montaño and Hook's whistle-blower complaints seriously.

University spokesman Chris Harrington said university officials are working on a "full and completely independent outside investigation," which he said is nearing completion.

He said the investigations have been extended twice due to the length and breadth of the reviews, which have included an evaluation of more than 7,000 documents, many of which were provided by Hook and Montaño, and more than 20 employee interviews.

Harrington wouldn't comment on the specific allegations made in the lawsuit, but he did say the lab has worked hard to accommodate both men and understands they have previously said that they found their current jobs rewarding.

In the lawsuit, Hook and Montaño say their current positions are below their skill levels and that their supervisors refuse to provide them with meaningful work.

Part of the lawsuit claims LANL stifled their First Amendment rights to free speech by trying to prevent them from disclosing serious management failings relating to purchasing and contract matters.

Comments:
How opportune...
 
Tommy Hook became "head" of the security guard force after the "Pro Force" was abolished and the job was awarded to a private contractor ten or twelve years ago. Many of his new policies, especially those on medical sick leave were so unreasonable that Hook single-handedly drove the guards to go on strike.
 
Anyone care to let us know what these 2 fellows think their "skill levels" are such that they have suffered $2,000,000 each in economic damages?
 
The second commentor is entirely correct in his statements about Hook. The business about the medical sick leave was extremely abusive.

Chuck Montano is a no angel either.

These two are not the poster children for Whistle Blowers.
 
Chuck Montano has had a bone to pick with LANL for years. He needs to get over the "poor me" attitude.
 
Chuck Montano and Tommy Hook are certainly controvercial people, but they are also the people who came forward and pointed the finger at the head of Audits and Assessments who was stiffling any evidence of management wrongdoing at LANL. That person and several of the others involved in the Bussolini/Alexander coverup left, thanks to the testimony of these two men.

Chuck Montano became the leader of the riffees in 1995 in reversing an action ruled discriminatory by the Department of Labor. He was not among the employees riffed, but the riffees kept coming to him for direction until he had no moral choice but to lead them in getting their jobs back and recovering some small percentage of their lost wages and benefits.

Both Chuck and Tommy can be pretty difficult people often lashing out at the innocent, but there is no doubt that they have contributed positively to LANL and to the people of Northern New Mexico. As we used to say, "It takes all kinds." These people are auditors and it is advantageous to LANL to use them to uncover wrongdoing. Auditors are not known for their sunny dispositions. The best auditors are tigers.

I believe we owe Chuck and Tommy a debt of gratitude, and a chance to do the jobs at which they are excellent. It is wasteful and demeaning to keep two highly skilled people on the payroll without giving them work to do. Nor are Hook and Montano the only whistleblowers at LANL who are retained without work. If LANL has no ground to fire them, it should assign them work. This kind of retaliation is a major problem at LANL and a major management tool in covering up rather than addressing problems.

On the other hand, Hook should definitely not manage people. Montano on the other hand has leadership talent. Yes, he has had a bone to pick with LANL for years. Are we going to start now maintaining that LANL is guiltless? Come to think of it most posters on this blog have at least one bone to pick with LANL. It the problem that Montano stood up to racism that most anglos couldn't see? It may be hard for LANL TSMs who are primarily anglo to see the racism, but the Department of Labor got it.

This lawsuit would not be necessary if it weren't for LANL's use of retaliation as a replacement for good management. Lovablity has never been a job requirement at LANL. If it were, quite a few technical folk would be in deep trouble, too.
 
Not everyone who was burned at the stake was a saint or a malfeasant. There may be a few of each but the majority were ordinary folks who in their humanity were in the wrong place at the wrong time or who uttered something improper without having the opportunity to declare their name as "anonymous." Any outrage should best be reserved for saints and ordinary folks. That said, "burning at the stake and scapegoating" as sentences developed within medieval S
"star chambers" handed down by agents of the State of California operating extraterritorial within New Mexico is an abomination. Attorney General Patricia Madrid, where are you?
 
I disagree with the 12:56 Anonymous poster. Montano has NO leadership talent. He is nothing more than a shameless opportunist. He has made too many anti-Anglo statements to qualify for any kind of leadership role.
 
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