Fraud Allegations Rock Los Alamos Lab

The two top security officials at Los Alamos National Laboratory have agreed to leave the lab after allegations of fraud and retaliation against a whistle-blower on their watch.

Security division director Stanley Busboom and his deputy, Gene Tucker, refused reassignment to lower-paying jobs at the lab but agreed to take a severance package and leave, said Bruce Darling, senior vice president at the University of California, which runs the lab.

Former lab investigator Glenn Walp has said Busboom and Tucker were among Los Alamos officials who hindered investigations into the use of lab money to buy hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hunting and fishing equipment, tools, cameras, coolers, televisions and other items unrelated to work at the lab.

Lab officials face a second hearing on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee, which is investigating financial mismanagement at the lab.

At the first hearing last month, Walp told House members that lab managers knew that fraud at the lab had been "greening the valley" around Los Alamos for years, but they looked the other way.

Cal vice president Darling told House members at the first hearing that 15 senior Los Alamos managers have been fired or removed from management positions.

Darling said the settlement was worth about a year's salary for each employee. Busboom had been making $190,000 a year and Tucker $165,000 annually, Darling told the subcommittee last month.

Busboom is expected to testify at Wednesday's hearing, as well as former deputy lab director Joe Salgado, who was fired Jan. 31; former lab director John Browne, who has been demoted; the lab's chief counsel Frank Dickson, who still holds his job; and other lab officials.

"I would think that there should be the smell of grilled bureaucrats in the air," Rep. James Greenwood, R-Pa., the subcommittee chairman, said last week. "Frankly, I think there is a lot of blame that needs to be assigned to these people, and they'll be given the chance to offer their perspectives on it."

The financial mismanagement as well as problems in the late 1990s involving suspected espionage and misplaced computer hard drives have the Energy Department considering whether to allow bidding on the nearly $2 billion contract to run the lab, which the University of California has held without competition since 1943.

The Energy Department is expected to make a decision on bidding before May.

Darling also said Tuesday the lab is investigating possible disciplinary action against an employee who tried to buy a customized, $30,000 Ford Mustang with a lab purchase card. It also is seeking reimbursement for cash advances to another employee, who used her Los Alamos charge card to get 11 cash advances at three casinos, Darling said. The employee had also bought gas, groceries and electronics with the card, he said.

The case of another employee, alleged to have filed a bogus $1,800 travel voucher, has been sent to local prosecutors for review, Darling said. The employee repaid the money.