Yucca Mountain News

Yucca Mountain Whistleblower speaks out
Kristi Hodges
Wednesday, December 18, 2002

To Whom it May Concern:

I just read the Yucca Whistleblower Information (Did you know) posting on the NWPO website.  I must say that we, the YMP whistleblowers, have stirred up a hornet's net.  My name is Kristi Hodges, and along with my peers, Mr. Bob Clark and Mr. Jim Mattimoe, I'm a key person in the YMP story that was broken by Mr. Keith Rogers of the Las Vegas Review Journal.  Mr. Rogers has only scratched the surface; there's a whole lot more to come.

A lot of media attention is being given to the Los Alamos case, and rightfully so, but the YMP case is much bigger, much more complicated, goes much higher and deeper, and involves more parties with varying interests, agendas, and vulnerabilities.  It's an incredible case and one that must not be suppressed.  It is important to the citizens of Nevada and to our country in general that a truly independent investigation be conducted by an entity that will pursue and report the truth. 

First of all, we're not activists against the Yucca Mountain Project; we're against corruption in the project and corruption in government.  Furthermore, we're not disgruntled employees; we're senior-level Quality Assurance (QA) professionals who have put our careers on the line.  Our profession requires personal integrity and our collective job was to assure that the project was advanced based on sound science and not politics.  That's a nice sound-bite, but the QA organization, which Mr. Clark directed, Mr. Mattimoe managed, and I supported as their right-hand person, verified that the science and engineering was done by the book.  Unfortunately, not everything was done by the book. 

Before there was even a hint that Mr. Mattimoe would be fired (and Mr. Clark removed), he reported/submitted evidence of corruption to several entities; i.e., the OCRWM QA Director (Mr.Clark), OCRWM Concerns Program, the Nevada Test Site Concerns Program, the DOE Inspector General (IG), the YMP Project and Deputy Project Manager, the OCRWM Director, and the Morgan Lewis investigators.  He then tried to provide evidence to his employer, Dr. Navarro, but she didn't want to see it. 

Senator Reid wasn't kidding when he said, "They set this guy up."  This was a a high-level frame job involving premeditated and calculated actions on the part of several entities.  This is more than a conspiracy theory; the senator's words will be proven correct.

I'm no fan of anonymous whistleblowers, and when you add a financial incentive you get a whistleblower racket that never ends.  Anonymous whistleblowers can throw a hand-grenade and watch from a distance to see what (and who) blows up.  I've seen incredible abuse, which, when the facts become known, is at the heart of the Mattimoe vs. US Department of Energy and Navarro Research and Engineering case. 

As stated in the US Department of Labor (DOL) report, the Morgan Lewis report, which the State seeks an unredacted copy, was no more than a recitation of anonymous allegations.  Mr. Clark and Mr. Mattimoe have not even seen the unredacted version, although it was the basis for actions taken against them.  The Review Journal has sought and been denied the report based on attorney-client and attorney work-product privilege.  How can this report be the basis for anything?  Does due process fall in this anywhere?  Is the State willing to fight a powerful law firm to get it?  And, after a huge fight, will it be anything other than ". . . a recitation of anonymous charges .  . . "?  I'd bet on the DOL's conclusion.   

Anonymous allegations have been flying around for quite some time now, but the YMP whistleblowers were the only ones willing to sign their name on the bottom line.  When accusing people, agencies, and companies of wrongdoing one should stand behind their words and show the evidence of their claims.  We have binders of evidence, which have been submitted to several entities, the DOE IG being one. 

The DOE IG was the recipient of six mailings (7 binders) of carefully indexed evidence submitted between October 2001 and January 2002.  After telling me that my submittals were topnotch, they compiled a summary complaint, read it to me over the telephone, and stated that it was going forward.  But then they did nothing.  Someone got to them; who I don't know.

Based on recent discussions with a congressional aide, the DOE IG did not acknowledge my IG mailings and also made statements concerning an alleged contact with Mr. Mattimoe that did not occur.  Perhaps this was a mistake by an IG staffer, but I'm confident that the DOE IG has much to explain.  Who will investigate the DOE IG?  Someone needs to.

Concerning your NWPO posting, I offer these comments:

Until the DOE is a license applicant the NRC will not get involved in employee concerns.  I don't necessarily agree with the NRC legal counsel's interpretation, but we have been told by DOE management and by NRC representatives that the NRC does not have jurisdiction at this time. 

The NRC did however get involved in one concern, which backfired on the former NRC Senior Onsite Representative (Mr. Bill Belke).  This was the subject of one of my DOE IG mailings, which was touched upon in the LV Review Journal.  If contacted, Mr. Belke will be most willing to discuss the issue.   

YMP whistleblower protection is complicated by the fact that the DOE is not liable under the Energy Reorganization Act (ERA), again until such time that it is a license applicant.  Therefore, in order to be held accountable for wrongdoing, the DOE must wave its sovereign immunity, which of course will not happen. 

Furthermore, although the DOE has many employees, based on an outrageous DOL ALJ ruling, the DOE is not an employer.  Mr. Clark, a federal official, and YMP whistleblower, has no protection under the ERA statute.  Contractors like Mattimoe and myself are protected under the statute, but only to go against an employer and certainly not the DOE. 

In the Mattimoe case the DOE had an option of waving its immunity, but, as expected, it did not.  The DOL determined the DOE's actions to be extraordinarily egregious, but under the ERA statute the DOL could do nothing but make it clear in its report that the DOE had committed severe wrongdoing, which it did. 

In its report the DOL refers to a "train of events."  These events are yet to be realized.  They involve a corrupt DOE concerns program, DOE senior management, DOE legal counsel, a powerful law firm, a notorious whistleblower attorney, the M&O contractor, lobbyists, and several more involved parties.

It now falls upon Mr. Mattimoe's former employer, Navarro, to account for the wrongdoing of everyone involved.  Navarro is by no means innocent, but the company was directed by DOE to fire Mattimoe.  And, because Navarro was determined guilty by the DOL, there is no way for the DOE to legally reimburse Navarro's litigation fees, which could easily bankrupt the company.  Obviously the DOL decision has been appealed, but for what?  This is an absolute mess.

I can see where you are going with the US False Claims Act.  If anyone deserves a substantial reward it should be Mattimoe, Clark and Hodges.  We've dedicated over three years of our lives to fighting and exposing corruption in the management of the YMP and beyond.  We've also spent many more years identifying the major QA deficiencies, which are at the heart of the egregious DOE actions. 

However, this is not about money; this is about justice and making sure that the project is successful based on sound science rather than politics. Again, that's a nice sound-bite, but that always was our motivation.  We still support the project, but we believe that it will inevitably fail if the corruption is not addressed. 

Now this is the kicker: Just like the NRC jurisdiction issue, and just like the ERA statute issue, the DOE is not subject to the US False Claims Act either.  DOE can truly commit crimes without consequence.  I have tried to alert Senator Ensign and more recently Representative Berkley to the problems in the laws, and hopefully something will be done to fix them.  Corrupt federal officials can direct contractors to break any number of laws and be immune from accountability. 

Mr. Mattimoe's attorney, Ms. Sangeeta Singal of San Francisco, has taken a bold step in appealing the DOE's immunity in this complicated case.  Who knows, this case may go all the way to the Supreme Court.  If we really want to clean up our government, we need to remove the immunity obstacle.  No one should be immune to commit crimes without consequence - absolutely no one!     

I have a few requests of the State.  Please don't let this drop.  It is imperative that a credible investigation be conducted.  The DOE and DOE IG cannot investigate itself.  The senators have asked the GAO, but there's no assurance that they will act.  Perhaps the House Committee on Government Reform would be interested; they have done credible investigations in the past.  Please explore avenues for assuring that this doesn't get squashed like the DOE IG investigation was. 

Also, I would appreciate any assistance in regard to state laws that might help us in our effort, and also any clarifications of federal laws and statutes that you interpret differently from what I have detailed above. This is a learning experience for all involved.  Thank you.

Kristi Hodges