The Paducah Sun
The Paducah Sun
Paducah, Kentucky

Whistle-blower lawsuits against DOE will go on

U.S. District Judge Jospeh McKinley Jr. did dismiss Lockheed Martin Corp. as a defendant in the two suits.

Bill Bartleman

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Two whistle-blower lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court in Paducah against former operators of the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant will be allowed to continue under a ruling by U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley Jr.

In a 77-page ruling signed Thursday, McKinley denied motions by Lockheed Martin Energy Systems Inc. and Martin Marietta Energy Systems to dismiss allegations that the companies filed false claims with the U.S. Department of Energy that allowed them to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in undeserved operating and management fees. The firms operated the plant and did cleanup from 1984 until 1997.

However, the judge did approve a motion by Lockheed Martin Corp., the parent company of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems and Martin Marietta Energy Systems, that it be dismissed as a defendant.

The first suit was filed in June 1999 by current and former plant workers Ronald B. Fowler, Charles F. Deuschle and Garland Jenkins, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based environmental group. The second suit was filed in February 2000 by former plant worker John Tillson.

After investigating the claims for three years, the U.S. Department of Justice found merit in the claims and joined in the suits.

McKinley also allowed the two suits to be consolidated, except for a claim made by Tillson that he was fired from his job for earlier attempts to notify the federal government of the false claims allegations.

Officials of the two companies have denied they filed false claims.

If Lockheed is ordered to repay the fees, the current and former employees could receive up to 25 percent of the proceeds. The rest would go to the federal government and could be used to help pay for cleanup at the plant, where nuclear fuel has been produced for more than 50 years.