Dec 23, 2008

Says Lawsuit Is for 'Vindication'

By Sue Major Holmes, The Associated Press

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee implicated in the presumed disappearance of two classified disks — which, in reality, never existed — said Monday he sued the lab to vindicate himself and a co-worker.

John Horne, who had been a lead technician, filed his lawsuit Dec. 12 in state district court in Los Alamos against former lab director Pete Nanos, former DX division acting director Kevin Jones and Los Alamos National Security LLC, or LANS, which took over lab management from the University of California in mid-2006. The university is a partner in LANS. Nanos left the lab in May 2005 to join the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Horne's lawsuit alleges he was persecuted and retaliated against after the disappearance of two disks — so-called “classified removable electronic media” or CREM — in July 2004.

In January 2005, in a harshly worded review that described severe security weaknesses at the nuclear lab, the U.S. Department of Energy concluded the two disks were never made.

The presumed loss of the disks, plus an incident in which an intern suffered an eye injury from a laser, prompted Nanos to shut down the lab in July 2004. It wasn't back into full operation until early 2005.

Horne, in an interview Monday from the Santa Fe office of his attorney, Timothy Butler, said the shutdown was a fraud perpetrated on the American public because it was unnecessary. The DOE said the shutdown might have cost as much as $367 million; the lab put the cost at $119 million.

The lawsuit contends Nanos and Jones knew from mid-July 2004 that no classified disks were missing.

Horne and Todd Kauppila, a lab team leader fired in September 2004, had said the problem stemmed from an accounting error. Horne received bar codes for CREM for conference presentations in 2003, but did not need two of them. Kauppila, the conference chairman, never had direct contact with the disks or bar codes.

They told reporters in early 2005 that senior managers were making them scapegoats. Kauppila, 41, was contesting his firing when he died in May 2005 of hemorrhagic pancreatitis.

“Todd died because of this,” Horne said. “My vindication is his vindication. Todd was very dedicated to this country and did nothing wrong.”

An independent arbitrator ruled for Horne in February, saying he did not violate any security policy or procedure and was wrongfully disciplined. The arbitrator also concluded he should be paid lost wages, benefits and other relief.

“The laboratory did not anticipate this suit because Mr. Horne previously chose to use binding arbitration to resolve his complaint,” the lab said in a statement issued Friday.

Jeff Berger, a spokesman for the lab, said managers had not been served with the lawsuit. He also said it related to events that occurred before LANS became the lab's prime contractor. “John Horne's claims were resolved in binding arbitration last year,” Berger said Monday.

Horne seeks damages for emotional distress, loss of income and medical treatment for health problems he says were caused by actions against him.

He also seeks punitive damages, alleging defendants breached his contract by outrageous, malicious and reckless acts and “deliberate indifference” to his rights.

Horne, who took early retirement last year after 24 years with Los Alamos, was suspended for 10 days without pay in December 2004.

He was issued a security infraction in January 2005 for not adequately notifying a classified matter custodian about the CREM and making sure they were accounted for.

He then filed a complaint, alleging violations of the lab's administrative manual and that “unsubstantiated claims and unethical actions” by Nanos, Jones and others destroyed his hope of career advancement.

That claim was denied, and the lawsuit details allegations of persecution by division managers over the following months.

Everyone at Los Alamos knew he was the center of the investigation that shut down the lab, and some blamed him for that, Horne said.

“It was like being in a minefield,” he said.


Anonymous said...

Shouldn't the DOE sue UC for the cost of the shutdown?

Anonymous said...

And everybody knew within a week that the "missing CREM" were only a clerical error and that they never existed. But the morons in DOE and NNSA and UC sat on their hands and watched Nanos close down the lab for months, costing hundreds of millions of dollars.... ALL FOR NOTHING.

Lab management had to persecute these employees to continue the ruse of the missing CREM (rather than admit their error.

The magnitude of their stupidity sure leads credence to the conspiracy theories that go back to Wen Ho Lee... all aimed at getting the lab under "for profit" management.

Funny how no one intervened during the idiotic stand down.

Best of luck with your lawsuit, Mr. Horne.

Anonymous said...

I hope Horne is "vindicated". I also hope he doesn't get a dime. Much of what he says is fabrication too.

Anonymous said...

The LANL - Nanos shutdown was ongoing when real classified material was being mishandled by none other than Ambassador Brooks and his office! Ironic wouldn't you say?!! LANL was on national news time and time again as butt head cowboys when the real "cowboys" at NNSA and DOE walked scott free. As for the shutdown - better on UC and NNSA's part to allow the American public to see LANL as the bad guys than admit they were wrong and have to "pay" for Nanos' mistake. A mistake caused by Nanos and his inability to control his temper!!!!! A mistake LANL is still paying for and it would appear will continue to pay for years . Nanos on the other hand has been provided "hush money" and gone on his merry way at DTRA!!! Hopefully Horne's lawsuit will once again put LANL in the news and this time maybe the real and whole truth will finally come out! I hope Horne wins and wins big!!!

Anonymous said...

And rumor has it that the puke who is responsible, George Peter Nanos, is still on the LANL payroll. May he die of an incurable cancer - and soon.

Anonymous said...

"And rumor has it that the puke who is responsible, George Peter Nanos, is still on the LANL payroll. May he die of an incurable cancer - and soon.

12/23/08 6:39 PM"

Nanos needs to go to jail!

Anonymous said...

Wishing death??

You guys need therapy.

Get off the blog addiction and get some help.

Also, go work somewhere else. LANL is making you worse. You can't keep blaming "the job" for everything that is wrong with your life.

If Mr. Horne was wrongly treated and it caused him to suffer, then an adequate financial award should be granted.

But wishing death is not the solution nor should it be the mentality of a Laboratory that prides itself with having educated workers.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget that LANL was also exonerated in the Chinese W-80 breach, the Congressional Research Service determined the drawings possessed by the Chinese had to have come from either Lockheed Martin corporate, Sandia National Laboratory, or the Naval Weapons Lab.

Its curious that LANL management never held a press conference to defend the lab nor do they ever correct Congressional members when this classifed material breach is attributed to LANL.

Anonymous said...

Dear 6:05 pm,

Fuck you. I hope you get laid off soon.

Lying asshole.

Best of luck to you, John. I was there; I saw what happened: you and Todd were right, Nanos, UC, NNSA, and DOE were wrong. Don't listen to the prick above. Be aware, however, that his attitude epitomizes that of the current Bechtel LANL management.


-A 2005 Retiree.

Anonymous said...

You guys are wasting psychic energy if you think there will be negative ramifications for Nanos. If really big fish like the CEOs of Fannie and Freddie aren't going to jail or otherwise being penalized for poor performance or judgment, minnows like Nanos aren't going to jail or getting penalized either.

I find it interesting that Nanos is not in the LANL directory, but Tarantino is.

Anonymous said...

Oh lord, Tarantino. What a waste of an external hire chit he was.

Anonymous said...

It seems that Horne and Kauppila took the punishment that was meant for the culprits in the REAL missing CREM incident that took place after the fire. The CREM that mysteriously turned up behind a copy machine, in a place that had already been searched. Those employees lied and stonewalled the FBI and then kept their weapons jobs and their clearances. That was the real turning point for the Lab, and it is something the Lab will never live down.

It also seems to have made it impossible for Lab management to say, "oh oops, never mind" when they realized their CREM accounting system was flawed. So they took out their frustration on innocent (and some not so innocent) people.

Di Nietz said...

To 12:23:08 6:09 PM, accusing John Horne of lying: If you are going to anonymously claim that John Horne's words are fabrication, I would be curious what you base your statement on. There is a plethora of evidence on his side.

And to 12:23 6:39 hoping for the death of Pete Nanos: I will admit that there are times I have personally fantasized about doing violence to this man. He was not only instrumental in the death of my brother (who was no saint, I agree, but was not even remotely guilty of what he was fired for), he has caused real and lasting damage to the functionality, morale, and dignity one of this nation's most prominent weapons research facilities. All the same, I do not wish him death. Not in my steady moments.

We live in a nation where we like to tout that one person can make a difference, but out of the other side of the mouth we will simultaneously say that there is no way to get justice or affect the people who are at the heart of some of our greatest crimes. When Todd died, I struggled with this irreconcilable state of affairs, that we can blog, write senators, talk to newspapers, call for justice, and yet see little or none. I somehow doubt that Pete Nanos has any trouble sleeping at night, looking at himself in the mirror, or even thinks about those he has fired (or worse) on even a daily basis. He lives a very comfortable life, the sort that my brother's children should have been guaranteed but are not.

John Horne's case will cause a minor stir in the press and perhaps gain for him a measure of satisfaction. I cannot help but hope for that, for Todd as well as John. However, the structures in place that precipitated such a farce of justice, a scrambled cover-up choosing vulnerable, loyal citizens as scapegoats, these have not changed. If I knew how to strike at those structures, I would forego any hope of vindication for Todd in order to see something shifted in the cogs and gears of the Great Machine.

Anyone who knows how to fix that, let me know.

~Diana Nietz