The Daily Record

Baltimore, MD

January 22, 2004 Thursday

Former manager accuses Lockheed company of fraudulent billing

Peter Geier

A former Lockheed Martin Energy Systems Inc. manager is pressing ahead with claims the company bilked the U.S. government out of hundreds of millions of dollars while mismanaging enriched uranium byproduct waste at plants in Ohio and Kentucky.

Kenneth P. Brooks of Erin, Tenn., is taking on his former Oak Ridge, Tenn.-based, employer, as well as defense industry giant Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda and Lockheed Martin Utility Services Inc. of Rockville in his False Claims Act lawsuit in Baltimore.

In his first amended complaint filed Monday, Brooks alleges that the company invoiced the government for disposal of radioactive and toxic waste it simply hid on its premises, then billed the government for a clean-up that allegedly never occurred.

Furthermore, it operated the government's uranium enrichment program for weapons and naval propulsion reactors in a manner which depressed the value of its gaseous diffusion plants at Paducah, Ky. and Piketon, Oh., when they were placed for public auction and bought by Lockheed Martin in 1998, Brooks alleges.

Gail E. Rymer, a Lockheed Martin Corp. spokeswoman, said the company does not discuss pending litigation.

Brooks admits that his four and a half year employment with the company was "a rocky road from the beginning" when he was first hired in January 1990 as to head the quality assurance department.

Accounting irregularities Brooks said he discovered in his first six months on the job further revealed to him that the company had no quality assurance program in place, which he in turn communicated to the U.S. Department of Energy, the contracting authority, his complaint says.

He was "admonished" for this action, and nearly terminated, Brooks claims, though he weathered this storm by transferring to another division at the Piketon plant, where about six months later he was promoted to facility safety manager.

Brooks claims he subsequently was promoted beyond his competence and later, after it was discovered that he kept in touch with safety personnel, ordered "not to talk with lower level employees."

However, he continued to look into a range of activities involving alleged facility non-compliance with OSHA and nuclear safety standards. His superiors' retaliation against him prompted him to address his concerns in writing to the chairman and chief executive of Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin's predecessor, in April 1993.

From this time until his termination in June 1994, Brooks claims he was among company officials ordered to "sanitize" their databases of information relating to health and safety violations -- an order he claims he was determined to resist.

Brooks' actions -- including his superiors' finding out that he had told the government about the purported destruction of files -- caused him to suffer harassment and retaliation his final year at the company, he claims.

He first filed his three-count complaint in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in April 2000 asserting a False Claims Act claim, conspiracy by and between Lockheed Martin and its two subsidiaries, and discrimination.

U.S. District Chief Judge Benson E. Legg sealed the case a week later, ordering the government to be served and the issuance of summonses to the defendants withheld.

Last February, the government elected not to intervene in this case. Legg then unsealed the case. Summonses were issued to Lockheed in August. A defense motion to dismiss the case, filed the following month, is pending with the court.

Brooks could not be reached for comment. Candace S. McCall, his Fairfax, Va.-based lawyer, did not return calls for comment before press time yesterday.