The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky
Saturday, June 09, 2001

DOE lawyers may delay whistle-blower lawsuit
They want time to review a Justice probe into allegations that Lockheed Martin, ex-operator of the Paducah plant, falsified records to earn bonuses.

By Bill Bartleman

Another delay is likely in the whistle-blower lawsuit filed two years ago by three Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant workers claiming a former operator falsified records in order to receive tens of millions of dollars in performance bonuses from the U.S. Department of Energy.

The delay is expected because DOE attorneys in Washington want more time to review the results of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into allegations that Lockheed Martin, which operated the plant from the early 1980s until 1997, falsified environmental records in order to earn bonuses.

DOE attorneys received the information late last month and were asked to review the findings and make recommend whether the government should become a plaintiff in the suit.

DOJ attorneys who ran the investigation have reportedly found evidence to support the allegations and have recommended to their superiors in Washington that the government become a plaintiff.

DOE's views and recommendations are wanted before the office of Attorney General John Ashcroft makes the decision.

Sources familiar with the case say DOE's initial reaction was to convince Justice not to intervene. However, DOE's formal response won't come until after the facts are reviewed by officials in Washington.

At stake is the potential that Lockheed Martin could be ordered to return millions of dollars to the government. The "whistle-blowers" who initiated the suit would receive up to 25 percent of the amount refunded.

Government attorneys already have received five extensions of the deadline for deciding whether to intervene. The current deadline is Wednesday. A spokesman in the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville said a motion would be filed in the case on Monday. He would not disclose the content of the motion, which will have to be approved by U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley.

Another reason for a possible delay is that negotiations are continuing between government attorneys and Lockheed Martin in an effort to resolve the dispute without further litigation. The possibility of an out-of-court settlement was mentioned in two previous requests for delays.