BATON ROUGE, La. – A day after it fired Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, a researcher under scrutiny in last fall's anthrax attacks, Louisiana State University fired the head of the biomedical research center that had employed him.
Stephen L. Guillot, who was director of both the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training and the Academy for Counter-Terrorist Education, was dismissed Wednesday, LSU spokesman Gene Sands said Thursday.
Sands refused to discuss why Guillot was fired, saying it was a personnel matter. He said the dismissal would be effective Oct. 4.
Guillot was not at home and could not immediately be reached for comment.
LSU's vice provost for academic affairs, Greg Vincent, is looking at the management practices of the entire division that oversees the biomedical research center, including its process for reviewing resumes of potential employees, Sands said.
Several questions have surfaced about Hatfill, including what appear to be exaggerations on his resume.
In discussing Hatfill's firing, Sands had said Wednesday that Guillot received an e-mail Aug. 1 directing him to "cease and desist" from using Hatfill on Justice Department-funded projects.
Hatfill was placed on administrative leave by LSU the following day, but Sands said Guillot didn't alert administration officials to the e-mail until Tuesday, when Hatfill was fired. Sands said the decision to put Hatfill on administrative leave and fire him was not connected to the e-mail.
LSU Chancellor Mark Emmert said Hatfill's firing wasn't a judgment of guilt but was in the "best interest of LSU."
Justice Department officials declined comment on the e-mail.
Pat Clawson, Hatfill's spokesman, said the e-mail was an attempt to pressure Hatfill into a false confession.
"We're stunned to learn of this," Clawson said Wednesday. "We're outraged. Blacklisting by the government is offensive and un-American. Obviously, (Attorney General John) Ashcroft wants to bring blacklisting back to the federal scene. Where was the due process?"
Hatfill blamed the FBI's anthrax investigation for his termination.
Five people were killed by anthrax-tainted letters sent through the mail last fall. Law enforcement officials have said Hatfill, 48, is not a suspect and no evidence links him to the anthrax letters. They have described him as a person of interest in their investigation, no more important than about 30 fellow scientists and researchers with the expertise and opportunity to conduct the attacks.
Hatfill, however, has been treated differently. FBI and Postal Service agents searched his apartment in Frederick, Md., twice, the second time with a search warrant. His photo was the only one circulated last month in the Princeton, N.J., neighborhood where investigators believe the anthrax letters may have been sent.
Hatfill worked until 1999 for Fort Detrick's Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland. It is the primary custodian of the virulent Ames strain of anthrax found in the anthrax letters.
Hatfill, who recently moved to Baton Rouge, taught classes for the LSU center on the East Coast before getting the $150,000-a-year associate director's job on July 1.
The research center operates in a different fashion than most other LSU entities. It gets 97 percent of its funding from the Justice Department and sends most of its instructors away from campus to train emergency responders to deal with bioterrorism agents.
Sands said the shake-up and firing of Guillot won't force the biomedical research center to shut down.