Misconduct Rumors Return to Haunt Labs

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Supervisors at the UC-managed Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory ignored serious financial fraud and retaliated by forcing the whistle-blower who brought it to their attention to resign, a new lawsuit claims.

In the wrongful termination suit, former laboratory employee Michelle Doggett alleges that, when she told her managers of serious misuse of funds in the lab's Energy, Manufacturing and Transportation Technologies department, they told her to disregard the problem.

The managers then reassigned her to another job, Doggett said in the complaint, filed Aug. 2 in Oakland Superior Court.

Gary Gwilliam, Doggett's attorney, said a contractor at the lab had wasted travel and expense funds, set up dummy corporations and used lab funds to lobby congress members.

Doggett said that, from 1995 to 1997, she became aware that her colleagues had mishandled the department's funding but that other colleagues and her manager discouraged her from bringing the issue to light.

Police have not filed criminal charges on the matter, but Gwilliam said one implicated employee transferred to a different division and another quit.

Even when Doggett brought her concerns to the attention of the lab's associate director, she said the director told her that she knew of "some level of questionable activity" but that she would not investigate it. For the next seven months, Doggett's suit claims the lab took no action.

From that time, Doggett said she was harassed, moved from job to job and excluded from important meetings. Lab employees even threatened her husband's job, she said.

"She became a persona non grata at the labs," Gwilliam said. "This is a case of a person who did the right thing getting punished."

The suit calls her colleagues' actions "malicious" and said they make her entitled to punitive damages.

"(Doggett) continues to suffer extreme humiliation, embarrassment, mental and emotional distress and discomfort," she said in the suit.

Doggett is suing over emotional distress and wrongful termination and requesting punitive damages, backpay and full repayment of attorneys' fees. She has also sued the UC Board of Regents and several lab employees, including Lawrence Livermore Director C. Bruce Tartar.

Gwilliam said the latest allegations follow a pattern of reckless behavior by the labs and a deliberate disregard for whistle-blowers.

"It's just another example of Lawrence Livermore having more problems out there," he said. "They brought it on themselves."

Lawrence Livermore spokesperson Susan Houghton said the lab had not yet received a copy of the complaint and that she could not comment on it.


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