Quote: “I always knew I did nothing wrong. I followed the rules to the letter. It feels great to be proven right.” — John Horne, a scientist with 23 years at the lab
Sue Vorenberg | The New Mexican
An arbitrator has found innocent a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee accused of security violations that led to a labwide shutdown nearly four years ago.
In the summer of 2004, then-Director Pete Nanos suspended normal work at the lab after two classified disks were reported missing and a laser accident damaged an intern's eye. He slowly brought divisions back online over several months
The missing disks were later attributed to an accounting error, and it turned out they never existed.
John Horne, a scientist with 23 years at the lab, was accused along with Todd Kauppila, a team leader, of involvement in the incident and was reprimanded by Nanos.
Horne was put on unpaid administrative leave for 10 days as punishment and was accused of failing to follow safety and security procedures. Kauppila was fired.
Kauppila also fought the accusations, but died in May 2005 before any determination could be made.
The incident was actually caused by a "record-keeping mistake made by a LANL classified matter custodian," according to a statement released by Horne's lawyer, Timothy L. Butler.
That employee was "not reprimanded for the record-keeping mistake, but the person was later released from the lab on an unrelated matter," Butler told The New Mexican, adding the information came out in the arbitration agreement. "You can see the irony in that," Butler said.
A National Nuclear Security Administration 2005 estimate said the shutdown cost the lab up to $337 million.
An arbitrator from the American Arbitration Association on Thursday determined Horne didn't violate procedure or cause a security infraction, and concluded he should be paid for lost wages, benefits and other relief resulting from the incident.
"I always knew I did nothing wrong," Horne said in a news release. "I followed the rules to the letter. It feels great to be proven right."
Kevin Roark, a Los Alamos spokesman, said Horne continued working at the lab until the voluntary layoffs this January. "We, of course, respect the decision of the arbitrator and wish John well," Roark said.
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