Sunday, December 18, 2005

Another Bump in the Road for Bechtel/UC?

[Rumor: Bechtel/UC will be announced as "winner" of the LANL contract sweepstakes...THIS WEEK!
...or early next year...or by spring, for sure...or early summer.]

Former lab worker: Firing is retaliation
Ex-group leader claims he was let go for criticizing $200 million program
By Andy Lenderman The New Mexican

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory group leader says he was fired for speaking out about fraud and waste in the lab’s procurement division. Harry J. Rodas, 60, said he was fired Oct. 31 at the end of his probationary period. Rodas said the lab hired him in October 2004 to help turn around the division, which spends more than $1 billion a year. The lab’s procurement division buys everything from ammunition to chemicals, Rodas said. Rodas has not filed a lawsuit but has hired a lawyer to send a letter demanding more than $263,000 for one year’s salary, health-insurance premiums and damages. The letter was sent by attorney Lynne Bernabei of Washington, D.C., to the University of California, which manages the lab, on Nov. 17. The university is reviewing the matter and communicating with Rodas’ lawyer, spokesman Chris Harrington said by e-mail Saturday.

“We firmly believe that the laboratory has strong and effective business management and procurement practices and policies in place,” Harrington said by e-mail.

Harrington did not comment further.

Rodas, a lawyer and former generaldivision manager with the U.S. Postal Service, said he was hired from outside the lab to bring “best business practices” there. He also spoke out about the lab’s Enterprise Project, a $200 million program proposed in 2003 and “intended to integrate the lab’s finance, accounting, human resources and procurement functions in one automated system,” according to Bernabei’s letter.

“They have gone through $200 million developing a system that is a disaster, that has never worked completely,” Rodas said in an interview. “It works today; it doesn’t work tomorrow. They have deliberately and very, very methodically eliminated people who would rise and say this doesn’t work.”

Rodas said he was hired to help improve the procurement division’s image. “It was a big show,” he said.

In 2004, two former lab workers were indicted by a federal grand jury on theft, fraud and embezzlement charges. The indictment alleged that Peter Bussolini and Scott Alexander of the facilitiesmanagement division used lab purchase cards to buy thousands of dollars worth of personal items, like lawnmowers and remote-controlled airplanes.

Bussolini and Alexander pleaded guilty in October 2004 to charges of conspiracy and mail fraud in a plea agreement with prosecutors.

And two investigators, Glen Walp and Steve Doran, were looking into allegations of missing property and fraud when they were fired by the lab in 2002. They were rehired in 2003 to report directly to the university.

Shortly before he was fired, Rodas received a “highly favorable” performance review on Oct. 6, according to his lawyer. “This success is a testament to his management and leadership abilities,” the review states.

But Rodas was fired Oct. 31 and was told he was not a suitable fit for the position, according to Bernabei’s letter.

Rodas said he was fired “because the politics changed. It was an issue of get rid of (me) or admit to the world and (Department of Energy) that we have gone through $200 million and gotten nowhere.”

Bernabei wrote that the lab “illegally terminated Mr. Rodas’ employment because he reported fraud, gross mismanagement, and gross waste of public funds to his supervisors within the lab, and was perceived to have threatened to disclose them to the Department of Energy and the University of California.”

The lab illegally retaliated against Rodas under the California Whistleblower Protection Act, Bernabei wrote, and violated his First Amendment rights.

Bernabei also discussed ways to settle the situation without her client filing a lawsuit.

“It is clearly in LANL’s interest to resolve this dispute at this time prior to the initiation of litigation, which will be costly and undoubtedly cause further public embarrassment to the laboratory,” Bernabei wrote.

Bernabei asked for one year’s salary, which Rodas said is about $113,000; payment for health-insurance premiums to the university’s health-care plan; and $150,000 in damages for loss of future income and pain and suffering.

Rodas said he spoke publicly about his case because many people at the lab are treated badly and subjected to “management by intimidation.”

He also said during his interview that he has never worked for Lockheed Martin Corp., Bechtel National or any other companies competing to win a new contract to manage the lab. He also said he did not own stock in those companies.

Comments:
I rather like the navigation maze that is required to find the way into the EP system. It's like one of those puzzle websites that's a cross between a scavenger hunt and "Where's Waldo."
 
Yes, the Enterprise Resource Project is a well-known failure. Yet another legacy of Admiral Butthead. Taken in total (money to the vendor, wasted effort by employees, etc.) the ERP will cost more than the standdown.

It's impressive what a mess can be made as a result of bad hiring decisions.
 
A billion dollar corporation isn't going to jump the gun to operate LANL.
They are crossing their T's and dotted their I's

Los Alamos will change and the change starts soon. The gravy train is coming to an end.

Folks get on the bus or get under it. Lockheed & UT are going to make changes that will take you out of your comfort zone.
 
Another good reason for annonymous posting. I'm being bugged by a broken backed cowboy from Buttcrack Mountain looking to fire my ass because he don't like my attitude.
 
While the enteprise system is a disaster, its impact is not as severe as (what I condsider) the two worst legacy issues:

1. Group Leaders have been stripped of their budget authority, and as a result have been stripped of any meaningful way to decide the future of their group (not to mention day-to-day operational issues).

2. Group leaders have been disempowered. Issues as trivial as reclassification of technicians get raised all the way to Associate Director level. This is a disgrace! AD's whould be working on improving our strategic predicament - not checking checkers checking checkers.

The statement used to be - hire the best people, and empower them to do the job. Let's get back to that and quick everyone second guessing everyone else!
 
Multimillion software projects that never work are not just limited to the EP, though it is a prime example. There are many other such projects around LANL and throughout the US Government. Remember the FBI?
These projects fail for many reasons but continue because no division leader can admit the project is a failure without being fired. So the projects just continue to grow and fail for years at a time. Demoralized programmers are told to push ahead even when they know the task is hopeless.
Hopefully the new company won't be forced to take on these losing projects. Hopefully they won't start their own. I am not holding my breath.
Of course, software companies that supply the original software love them Oracle, Wind Chill, and many others.
 
llc001 made two good points about the impact of the change in budgeting at LANL which has disempowered Group Leaders. Because there are no longer group taxkes but just division taxes, some of which may or may not be passed back to the groups, the group leaders have no control over large parts of their budgets. And they are losing control of their staff also. HR has abrogated its responsibilities by allowing divisions to reorganize their administrative staff so that group leaders are no longer allowed to decide raises for the group admins. That responsibility has been taken over by the division offices, some time by the Chief of Staff. So longterm admins, hired by group leaders prior to this reoranization now serve two masters - the group leader and the division COS. This is both unfair and expensive considering the comparative salaries of the group admins and the COS's.
 
and let's hope IM goes down with EP.... they thought they were riding it to glory but just added more dead weight to an obviously crappy system that never worked from day 1.
 
Hi, I enjoy your blog here. Any others? Keep up the good blogs.

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