Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ironic that it comes right after Thursday's political pep talk

To our friends and supporters:

Yesterday marked an interesting milestone and I thought you'd be interested in the outcome. Ironic that it comes right after Thursday's political pep talk.

Shortly after Todd's death, LANL/UC indicated a desire to settle with me and yesterday we went to mediation in an attempt to come to a settlement. The mediator was Paul Bardacke, whom I will praise highly as a man of integrity and intelligence. He acted as an excellent mediator and didn't speak down to me just because I was the only one present who wasn't a lawyer.

I had already been warned by my attorney of the difficulties we faced due to the case law regarding survivorship. Todd, himself, would have an excellent case, but I, as surviving widow, have a much more difficult legal claim in the wrongful dismissal case. The fact that the stress of having been unfairly dismissed by his employer of 21 years killed Todd seems to have, in a legal sense, gotten UC off the hook for the fraudulent and criminal acts perpetrated by Nanos and his accomplices. Nonetheless, I still had a naïve idea that UC would help me, and went into the mediation thinking that they would be willing to offer a reasonable settlement. It was very clear moments after the slick lawyer (not a UC employee, but one from a private law firm retained by UC) started his opening statement that their intentions were very much other than what I'd hoped for. He quoted complicated law, callously reiterated Nanos' lies about Todd, and proceeded to tell me that it is their opinion that I have no claim whatsoever.

I won't state the amounts discussed, but I don't feel I was being unreasonable given the magnitude of our loss. Many people have expressed the opinion that I should have been asking for millions, but it's not that easy. Based on the legal difficulty noted above and the fact that I really just wanted to get it over with and move on with my life, I was willing to accept an amount close to what Todd's life insurance would have paid. Despite previous statements (mostly due to my own confusion) that amount was closer to $550K rather than a million. You would think UC would have been thrilled to accept those terms when you consider the magnitude of the abuse that they inflicted upon us. At one point during the mediation, I would have settled for much less than that since the UC lawyers had agreed to put out a statement clearing Todd's name (that was unexpected?but we never got far enough for me to know if they would have been willing to say it in a way that was acceptable to me!) Unfortunately their offer was so very pathetic that I honestly would have felt cheap and dirty taking it. After taxes and legal costs the amount offered would have just about purchased us a used car. Their willingness to mediate was clearly a ploy to make them look good (they can now claim that they tried to settle and make me look like the irrational, greedy widow who wouldn't accept their offers!) I am having a very hard time understanding how UC could perceive that the amount I would settle for was out of line if they were really willing to publicly clear Todd's name. For any of you still out there who honestly thought that LANL/UC would do what is right ?sorry. They sat right across from me and defended Nanos and his actions. Clearly the attitudes that permeated LANL/UC management have not changed with the new contract. The fact that people who were directly involved in Todd's destruction are being retained in high positions is clear evidence that nothing has changed. I feel for all of you as you defend your pensions and would remind those who may have gotten comfortable in the past few months that good employees are expendable to UC's politics.

So I keep fighting instead of moving on with life. There are legal hurdles to overcome, but it`s not over, and I have very good attorneys working for me, too. I may get nothing in the end, but I'm feeling very comfortable with my decision. I can live with the fact that I didn't just roll over and take the pittance offered for all the wrong done.

Thanks again for all your support.

Sara Kauppila

Comments:
We're still interested Sara. Political speeches are one thing, but how an employer treats its people is where the reality is. Todd was treated very badly by the University of California. I think you are doing the right thing in not accepting a low settlement offer.

Keep up the fight, and let us know what we can do to help.

-Doug
 
How long, O God, will the people of Los Alamos County stand for this? They vote over and over and over again for Republican politicians who are out to destroy them. And yet they snigger at the "ignorant" people of Kansas who vote against their own self interest and for Creationism. (Read the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" -If you dare.)

Here we see the case of UC and LANL's shabby treatment of Todd Kauppila, a man who stood up against those who would destroy us from within--saboteurs (yes, Nanos and his minions are nothing if not saboteurs, and they are still in power at the Lab)--in league with those who from the Far Right have set out to destroy Los Alamos from without by their monstrous privatization scheme. Todd not only gave his life at work--berylliosis from exposure as a firing site supervisor--but also from the stress of standing up against the lies of upper Lab management about the so-called "missing" CREM.

Now, we find out that the Neo/theo/cons have sold out the Laboratory for a mess of pottage (look that up in your Bible, my religious friends). And they are apparently 'wiretapping' this very blog. And they are plotting to destroy the LANL part of the UC retirement system. -And on. And on. And on.

Will anyone stand up and fight against such a corrupt system? Apart from Sara, that is?

No, probably not. Sorry I said anything. Just forget it. Back to the state of denial; it's so much more comfortable than reality.
 
Sara,

You have my very best wishes and you are in my prayers. I am not the least bit surprised at the calloused position that is being taken by UC and the lab. It would seem the lab should be stepping forward to shoulder their responsibility but I suppose they are hiding behind the skirts of UC. Stick to your guns and don't let them get you down! You have my support and that of many others I am sure. Although I do not work at LANL or even in NM, I have followed your situation through the blog. Remember nothing is ever gained by giving up. Be strong, and may God guide you.

Bob Wilson
 
I have to disagree with Brad on only one point. This is not about the republicans. It’s about the republicans and the democrats. It is not about conservative or liberal, it is about power. The politicians on both sides of the aisle use political ideology as a tool to garner support and thereby broker power. They could care less about the country or their constituents. This is simply another situation by which they can enrich themselves. Depending on the issue and the political climate some get richer than others at different times but all the members of the club eventually get a bite at the apple.
They consider us to be nothing more than fertilizer for the apple tree.

What this is about, is the destruction of a dedicated American scientist. This is about Sara and her children. This is about the unwarranted abuse of 19 other American citizens at the hands of the Congress and the media. And most of all this is about the fact that officials of this laboratory committed crimes for which they are not being held accountable. As long as nobody demands their accountability there will be others who will suffer at the hands of these unscrupulous vermin. We should all be able to see the writing on the wall with the underhanded way they announced the upcoming changes in the retirement system. To let out the news on a Friday afternoon before a long weekend is a common political ploy used when those in power want to slip something past those who are not. This is indicative of the type of people we are all dealing with. As long as we just “roll over one more time”,as Webb Hubbel would say, then nothing will change.

Brad makes a very important point here. Sara cannot, and should not have to, fight this alone. She needs all of you to show your support by lobbying your representatives and demanding action. We should all realize by now that a politician will only do the right thing when forced to do so. I urge you to assist her by providing that force. Who knows, maybe if they realize we won’t tolerate this kind of abuse they might think twice about absconding with all of those retirement checks.
 
Sara -
Good for you! We had a bizarre situation here at Berkeley a few years which showed how intransigent UC can be on legal or bureaucratic matters. It was nowhere near as tragic as your case but showed how far staff had to go to force some sanity. In that case also, staff had to hire their own attorney to go up against a specially hired UC attorney. You are correct to set a minimum base level in respect of your late husband and for a modicum of justice. Please do not make it too low. May your courage and perseverance prevail!
- Rick Sterling
 
Brad,

You really need to take some more time before posting. You sound like you are trying out for Ed Grothus's job when you retire. Your next line should be about the white cross helicopters that keep circling your house and blaring "Convert!" on their loudspeakers.

The University of California is not a neo-con or theo-con organization. It is a multi-billion dollar organization that is run by people whose political leanings are considered Left of Center.

The regents hire vicious lawyers for one reason.. to make sure that those billions of dollars aren't spent. Heck do a long news archive search on many universities and various wrongful death suits. You will see the same story over and over again. They will hire vicious lawyers and will try to settle for pittances. It doesn't matter who is running the show from Kissinger's blood brothers to died in the wool Marxists.. it seems to be the American standard.

Heck, some of the most vicious organizations I have ever met were run by died in the wool atheists.
 
Sara, you do not deserve the treatment you have received, but you are not being singled out. LANL has been running around talking settlement with everyone lately -- maybe its some DOE requirement-- yet I do not know of a single case that was settled.
The truth is that LANL almost never settles a case these days and when they do, it is usually because the judge ordered them to, so they didn't have much choice.
LANL would rather spend the tax payers' money fighting cases than settle them for less than it would have cost to fight them. The truth is the cost of settling comes out of the LANL budget. The cost of fighting a case is paid for by DOE and costs the lab nothing, no matter how long they fight.
Mediation only works if both sides are willing to give a little. LANL does not give. Period. I am not sure why they even bother to meditate. Bardacke is a good mediator. It isn't his fault your mediation failed.
The only way to get them to settle is to go to court and win. Then expect them to appeal as many legal issues as they can think up. The idea is to make you run out of money and drop the whole thing.
I hope you can find a way to keep going. I am ashamed that an organization financed by the our taxes would treat anyone, and especially you, in such a manner.
There should be a national uprising against the treatment employees of LANL and other government contractors are treated.
 
You know, all this talk of a national uprising is a lot of fun, I am sure. I would be just as happy if there were a local uprising. It wouldn't take much.

We've got Ashley Pond. Hold a rally in support of the Kaupilla family, with lots of lab people present. Hold benefit concerts. Hold bake sales, for goodness sake, and hold them right in Ottowi. Get the Los Alamos County Council to issue a resolution in support of Todd, and asking for a swift resolution and fair settlement. Call our local Rep. and ask the Los Alamos Oversight Committee to investigate what happened with Todd.

Fulminating on this blog will do nothing. You're not going to get a national uprising. Think locally. What can you do? Lots of people in this town are joiners. What can your organization do?

Ron
 
Ron:

These are excellent ideas. I'd like to try to organize some of it. If anyone would like join me please feel free to call.

Thanks Ron

John Horne
 
"Gruntled":

Nope, I don't need to take any more time before posting. What YOU need to do is come up to speed. The Board of Regents of the University of California are by now mostly far, FAR from Lefties. Beginning with Pete Wilson, "Gray" Davis (don't you just LOVE his first name?), and now with The Governator, most of them are business cronies. -Not a Lefty among 'em.

As for your *bogus* Ed Grothus insult, calm down and do *both us* a favor. Check out who owns the country and now runs it full time, before you sling the stuff so wildly, and it splashes backatcha. (Clue: Ed doesn't come close to running anything, except off at the mouth.)

-----Now on to the real business at hand:

The important thing for us Labbies is to do as the previous two posters suggest: begin a local rebellion. It's always been the only thing that works in America. -From the very earliest days.

Amen, Brother! A day at The Pond!
 
Righteous! All power to the PEOPLE! (Free Huey!)

Bring Barry Goldwater back! We NEED him...bad!
 
Now you guys are talkin. Spread the word that we're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore. It's time to rally behind the Kauppilas and stand up for what's right.
 
Enough talk.

Everybody who's talking -- let us know when you call, let's say, the Los Alamos Oversight Committee and request an investigation.

Let us know when you call your senator.

Enough blogging. Do something! Deeds, not words.

I read a great book recently, "Open Letters", by Vaclev Havel. It is in our library. It reminded me of a few things. Folks behind the Iron Curtain did simple things (write an open letter, sign Charter 77) and for that little action -- the action of putting their name to a piece of paper -- they were harassed, arrested, beaten to death, their children's lives ruined. Think about your kids, in college, being expelled because you, personally, signed a letter. Think about their lifelong misery, imposed by a merciless dictatorship, because YOU said something. Think about your actions destroying your children's lives. These people risked it all -- including their entire family, not just themselves -- for what they knew to be right.

And yet, we see people unwilling to say anything because it might be "career limiting". I wonder, sometimes, is there an American in the house?

The First Amendment is yours, folks, but only if you use it.

Ron
 
Right on Ron. I am beginning to organize a rally. The purpose of the rally will be three fold. One is to show support for, and to raise funds for, Sara's legal battle. Two is to get people to sign a petition to investigate the possible criminal activity of LANL and UC officials. Three is to convey the magnitude of the wrong doing by LANL, UC, and our political leaders. There have been bits and pieces of the story on the blog but I think a first hand account might be more compelling.

Stay tuned for details.
 
Brad,

I apologize for the Grothus comment, but at some point the daily harping about evil neo-cons looks like the weekly monitor letters. I take issue at your political comments because they seriously imply:

If you are a business person you are a neo-con.

If you are religous you are are a neo-con.

If you think that people should have the right to vote, even if they vote for stupid things.. you are a neo-conservative Republican.

I find it as narrow viewed as the Conservative republicans who use the same litmus tests.
 
OK, "Gruntled Guy," I thank you for your civility.

Now, as to your misconceptions about my political views:

(1) SMALL businessmen are far, far from the problem facing this country and the world; it is the grossly overpaid CEOs of multinational corporations, who bribe Congress and rely on our widespread military muscle to impose their exploitive mercenary schemes, that are the real threat to the middle class in America. (I was born and raised into a middle-class, Republican, Presbyterian family, so don't imagine that I've strayed very far afield from that core.) And, no, the Mom-and-Pop businesses, middle-class and for the greatest part NOT AT ALL on the 'take,' are NOT the Enemy, not for a second.

(2) I do NOT subscribe to the generalization that religious people are perforce Neocons. I hold quite the opposite view: (a) Jesus of Nazareth was tortured and executed by the Roman Empire because his message and ministry was opposed to the entire notion of 'empire,' by passive resistance; (b) Mahatma Gandhi opposed the occupation and oppression of India by the British Empire, by passive resistance; (c) the Rev. Martin Luther King opposed the American Government's collusion with the autocratic South in its Jim Crow laws against black people and against the immoral Vietnam War, by passive resistance; (d) the Dalai Lama has fought the occupation and oppression of his homeland of the Red Chinese government, by passive resistance. Since all of the above religious leaders have shown us the way to think for ourselves and to stand up for ourselves against 'empire,' I would say that they are perforce the moral OPPOSITE of Neocons.

(3) In fact, I "think that people should have the right to vote, even if they vote for stupid things," as you have said, but that does NOT make ME a Neocon.

Now that we have straightened these few things out, I suggest that we meet up at the Rally at The Pond for the Kauppila family, whose struggle should unite small businessmen, the truly religious, and all true conservatives and libertarians in this community against the Powers That Be. It seems that we should be able to put aside some relatively minor differences and link arms at The Pond, don't you think?
 
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