Author Archive for Jack Sheridan

Black Lives Matter: SLF Takes Two Cases to The Supreme Court: 1. Seven Former Seattle Public Utilities Employees Ask For New Trial Owing To A Lack of Diversity in the King County Jury Pool 2. Former Seattle Department of Transportation Employee alleges Jury Misconduct and Errors of Constitutional Magnitude at Trial and Appellate Courts

Johnson Plaintiffs2

First Row (left to right): Carmelia Davis-Raines, Luisa Johnson, Toni Williamson, Cheryl Muskelly
Second row: Pauline Robinson, Elaine Seay-Davis, (Lynda Jones not present)

July 6, 2018

Seattle, WA

Johnson et.al. v. City of Seattle

Today one Asian American and six African-American former employees at SPU filed a petition with the Washington State Supreme Court asking the justices to grant them a new trial because the jury panel for their race and age discrimination trial lacked racial and economic diversity.  At trial in the King County Superior Court,  the plaintiffs objected to the venire (the juror pool) and asked the Honorable Suzanne Parisien to dismiss that venire and bring in another panel of potential jurors that contained some black persons.  Judge Parisien denied the request. They also asked Judge Parisien to reconstitute the venire because after Judge Parisien granted requests for hardship dismissals based on financial concerns of lower wage earners whose employers would not pay them to sit on the jury for three weeks, those not dismissed constituted an elite cross-section of the citizenry, including non-working retirees and persons who worked for big companies in higher paying salaried jobs who would be paid through a three-week trial. The plaintiffs argued that Judge Parisien should create a trial schedule which may permit more economic diversity in the panel, such as holding court fewer days in a work week. Judge Parisien denied that request as well.  The petitioners consider these rulings to be denials of their constitutional rights to equal protection and to a jury trial.

As to the economic diversity issue, if review is granted by the Supreme Court, petitioners will suggest possible solutions include paying jurors at least the minimum wage to enable low-income workers to be jurors, or to have court fewer days each week so hourly workers can still work and earn a living wage. Jack Sheridan said, “we have to find a way to allow all citizens, regardless of their income levels, the right to participate in jury service.  It’s the only time that the average citizen has a chance to fight back against abuses by big companies and big government, and we have to make sure that the jury is a jury of our peers.  We can’t let the right to a fair trial be diluted.”

As to the racial diversity issue, the petitioners rely on the results of the 2016 juror survey done for the courts showing that white jurors in King County are systematically “overrepresented” in the juror pool, while black jurors are systematically “underrepresented.”  See petition at A-50.  Supreme Court Justice Wiggins has written that in the criminal context, studies suggest that when comparing a diverse jury to an all-white jury:

All-white jurors tend to spend less time deliberating, make more errors and consider fewer perspectives. . . . In contrast, diverse juries were significantly more able to access reliability and credibility and avoid presumptions of guilt and fairly judge criminally accused in a criminal case. By every deliberation measure heterogenous groups outperformed homogenous groups. These studies seem to confirm what seems obvious from reflection: A more diverse group of juries has a result of fairer trials.

Jack said, “What good is the right to a jury trial if the deck is stacked against you at the start, and the deck is stacked against black plaintiffs in King County and in most counties in the state. The Supreme Court needs to step in and create rules to ensure the juror pool is diverse racially and economically.”

Click here to see copy of Supreme Court Petition

Click here to see Supreme Court letter

Below is a video on race and juries in America

Click below for link to Court of Appeals website to hear Johnson v. City of Seattle oral argument

https://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/appellateDockets/index.cfm?fa=appellateDockets.showOralArgAudioList&courtId=a01&docketDate=20180228

September 5, 2018

Seattle WA

Monroe v. City of Seattle

Today, Cita Monroe filed a petition for review with the State Supreme Court.  This is from the introduction of the Supreme Court Petition.  See if you feel differently about your own views after reading this.  We all have implicit bias, and these two petitions seek to address that issue head on, and other important issues so that black plaintiffs can get a fair trial.

At the recommendation of a City retained doctor, a disabled white woman with a documented history of anxiety and depression, was transferred from one City of Seattle department to another as an accommodation, because the City’s doctor opined that in her then current assignment, “her increase in anxiety and depression symptoms would limit her ability to adequately concentrate, withstand day-to-day usual work stresses and interact appropriately with supervisors and coworkers.” So the disabled white woman was transferred to the City’s Department of Transportation, and was assigned to work under the supervision of a six foot two, 305-pound black male supervisor with a history of aggressive behavior at work.

One day her black supervisor cornered the disabled white woman in a women’s restroom at work. He stood outside the restroom door pounding with his fist and yelling for her to get out. He wanted her to take a fitness for duty exam off site, and she said she would go, but she wanted her sister, also an employee, to accompany her, because the disabled white woman was afraid to be alone with this large, black man. Her anxiety peeked in the women’s restroom; she had soiled herself in fear; she called her shop steward from inside the restroom. Through the telephone, the white shop steward heard the yelling and banging, and after the disabled white woman handed the black manager the phone through a partially opened restroom door, she proposed having a third party join them. The black manager yelled at the shop steward saying, “It’s too late” [for the disabled white woman to get the fitness for duty exam now]. The disabled white woman left the workplace after her security badge was taken.

The disabled white woman was then terminated for leaving her work place and for refusing the fitness for duty exam despite testimony to the contrary.

The facts stated above describe the case of the petitioner with one vital exception—Petitioner Aloncita Monroe is not white; she is black.

Many white readers of these paragraphs may have been horrified and outraged by the black manager’s treatment of the disabled white woman in the workplace. Yet for reasons they may not be able to explain, they may find that the effect of knowing now that the female employee is actually black, has somewhat diminished the outrage and horror felt in hearing the facts.[1] This is the nature of implicit bias: bias held by all of us including by the jury, the judge, and all persons present at trial.

In recent history, in some states, lesser conduct by a black man, if directed against a white woman, could have led to a lynching.[2] In those same states, this author knows of no instance in which the same alleged conduct by a black or white man against a black woman, ever led to a lynching. It may be that white society discounts the significance of violence against black women.[3]

A means of fighting against such bias in the courtroom is through the use of an implicit bias jury instruction. The petitioner proposed two, but the Respondent City of Seattle vehemently objected to their use, and the Honorable John Erlick agreed with the respondent. He also excluded a pretext instruction proposed by the petitioner, a continuing duty to accommodate instruction proposed by the petitioner, and included an essential functions element in the disability discrimination instruction even though the trial court admitted its inclusion made little sense and was confusing.

During deliberations, Mr. Willie J. Neal, Jr., the only black juror out of the twelve deliberating jurors, left the deliberations to visit the restroom. Judge Erlick had cautioned the jury not to deliberate unless everyone was in the room. At the time of his departure, he and two white jurors had voted in favor of plaintiff’s failure to accommodate claim.  While in the restroom, he could hear talking. When he came out, without further discussion, a new vote was taken, and without explanation or discussion, one of the two white jurors changed her vote now voting against liability. Immediately, the Asian American foreperson pressed the button to summon the clerk and to present their decision. The jury was polled and confirmed a 10-2 verdict for the City on the failure to accommodate claim and 11-1 verdicts on the other claims. Two days later, Mr. Neal completed a sworn statement outlining these troubling facts.  He concluded that improper deliberations occurred while he was in the restroom. CP 972-74 (Appendix at 1-3).

The Neal Declaration became the focus of plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, but the uncontradicted sworn statement by Mr. Neal, the only black juror, was not enough to overturn the verdict. The City submitted no contradictory evidence from any other juror or any other source. Judge Erlick denied the motion and asked, “How do we know that it wasn’t the African American juror’s implicit bias towards your client?” See RP (1/27 Albino) 17 (emphasis added). The following exchange followed:

SHERIDAN: Well, that is the difficulty, Your Honor, is that we — we have to be mindful that our own implicit biases don’t infect the proceedings here today. And the whole purpose — the whole purpose of the implicit bias jury instruction and the whole purpose of the ABA’s . . . 2016 guidance[4] on how we should conduct jury trials is that this exists in everything we do, and it exists in whites against blacks. That’s what the studies say. And the terrible part about not giving that instruction, given the fact that the ABA says to give it, is that it’s not like, you know, the global warming argument where you an find 1 percent of the scientific community say, ‘There’s no evidence.’ We have a situation where every single scholarly article — including Judge Doyle’s article, which I just happened to see yesterday — they all say that it is helpful to address implicit bias head-on. And — and —

THE COURT: And you did.

SHERIDAN: — yes.

THE COURT: You addressed it in voir dire. You addressed in the opening — your opening statement. You addressed it in your closing argument. You raised it throughout this entire trial.

. . . .

SHERIDAN: … [S]ometime in our lives, Judge, it is going to be a no-brainer that implicit bias is examined, and maybe those — maybe that test is going to be given during jury — during — you know, during jury orientation to sensitize people. But also, to get back to what you said, which is the idea of Sheridan got to argue it; what’s the harm? Well, we have extensive citation in our briefs where courts have said there’s a big difference between having an instruction and having a defense — a plaintiff’s or defense lawyer argue something. The instruction is — carries the weight. The lawyers arguments — remember the first thing out of [defense counsel] Mr. Johnson’s mouth when he — when he stood up was — in closing was, ‘Well, good thing this is argument. You don’t have to believe what Sheridan said.’ And that’s the difference between you saying it and me saying it. And, basically, the cases that – you’ll see them in our reply brief and other places — but it’s — basically says that, you know — the Townsend case, it says, ‘It’s unreasonable to expect jurors, aided only by arguments of counsel, will intuitively grasp a point of law until recently eluded by both judge . . . — ’

RP (1/27 Albino) 17; see also RP (12/19 Moll) 1916.

This exchange with this highly respected white trial judge demonstrates that implicit bias infects us all, and that failure to give an implicit bias jury instruction in this case is a constitutional violation and an abuse of discretion, because an implicit bias jury instruction promotes consciousness and introspection, which are methods of fighting those biases.[5]  The uncontested sworn statement of the only black juror should have been enough to support a new trial. His sworn factual testimony was strong circumstantial evidence of juror misconduct in violation of the Washington State Constitution and the failure to grant a new trial was an abuse of discretion.

Today more than ever, we need a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles because—today more than ever—it is essential to the security of individual rights and the perpetuity of free government. Const. art. I, § 32.  The overarching issue is, what Supreme Court actions are needed to ensure that a black person gets a fair trial in Washington State? If this Court does nothing, injustice will prevail and discontent will ferment in all affected communities.

This petition for review should be accepted by the Supreme Court because the petition raises significant questions of law under the Constitution of the State of Washington; and involves issues of substantial public interest that should be determined by the Supreme Court. RAP 13.4(b) (3) and (4). Additionally, once the juror misconduct is confirmed, the petition demonstrates that the Court of Appeals decision is in conflict with Supreme Court precedent. RAP 13.4(b) (1). Upon review, the jury verdict should be set aside and a new trial granted with new rules requiring an implicit bias instruction when requested and for evaluating juror misconduct.

[1] According to prominent scholar and expert witness Dr. Anthony Greenwald, “seventy percent of Americans hold implicit prejudiced views based on race, color, national origin and ethnicity.”  Samaha v. Washington State Dep’t of Transp., No. CV-10-175-RMP, 2012 WL 11091843, at *1 (E.D. Wash. Jan. 3, 2012).

[2] See Equal Justice Initiative, “Lynching In America: Confronting The Legacy Of Racial Terror,” Third Edition, available at: https://lynchinginamerica.eji.org/report/.

[3] “The legal and social double standard that allowed white men to commit sexual violence against black women with impunity, while the most baseless fear of sexual contact between a black man and white woman resulted in deadly violence, continued after emancipation. Nearly one in four black people lynched from 1877 to 1945 were accused of improper contact with a disabled white woman.” Equal Justice Initiative, available at https://eji.org/history-racial-injustice-sexual-exploitation-black-women.

[4] See American Bar Association, Principles for Juries and Jury Trials, Principle 6(c) (2016), filed at CP 1127 (Appendix at 26).

[5] “Research on the role of attention in weakening the effects of implicit cognition . . . supports consciousness raising as a strategy for avoiding unintended discrimination. That is, when a decision maker is aware of the source and nature of a bias in judgment, that bias may effectively be anticipated and avoided. Consciousness raising may also have some value in attenuating implicit bias when the source of implicit bias is not properly identified, as suggested by findings that attentional effort reduces effects of weak cues.” Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). “Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, Self-Esteem, and Stereotypes.” Psychological Review, page 16. Available at: http://faculty.washington.edu/agg/pdf/Greenwald_Banaji_PsychRev_1995.OCR.pdf.

Click here to see a copy of the Monroe Supreme Court Petition

Click below for link to Court of Appeals website to hear related case of Monroe v. City of Seattle oral argument

https://www.courts.wa.gov/appellate_trial_courts/appellateDockets/index.cfm?fa=appellateDockets.showOralArgAudioList&courtId=a01&docketDate=20180605

Jury Awards Former WSDOT Director Stacy Trussler $1.2 million in Disability Retaliation Case

June 26, 2018

Seattle, WA

Today a King County jury found that managers at the Washington State Department of Transportation are guilty of retaliation against Stacy Trussler, a former director who was “disability separated” by WSDOT management in 2016.  The jury awarded Ms. Trussler $1.2 million in damages and recommended that she be reinstated to a comparable position at WSDOT with protections against further retaliation.

Ms. Trussler is an experienced civil engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering from Washington State University (1993).  She joined WSDOT in 1995, and in 2010 she was promoted to Director of the WSDOT Urban Planning Office (UPO).  The UPO was responsible for representing the Transportation Secretary at regional boards and county-wide forums, and as the Director of UPO, Ms. Trussler did so and led three technical teams: travel demand modeling, corridor planning studies, and transportation systems analysis.

In October 2012, Ms. Trussler suffered a head injury in a motorcycle accident, and after she returned to work she was informally accommodated by her then manger, Brian Smith, who permitted Ms. Trussler to telecommute, rest as needed, and to have a flex schedule until he retired in February 2014.  Under Mr. Smith, Ms. Trussler had positive performance evaluations before and after her accident.

Ms. Trussler alleged in her complaint and at trial that after Mr. Smith retired, the newly hired Assistant Secretary for Economy and Community, Amy Scarton (who is currently the assistant secretary for the Washington State Ferries Division), harassed, retaliated, and discriminated against her owing to her disability, and that Kerry Woehler, Mr. Smith’s replacement (who is currently the WSDOT planning manager), also engaged in harassment, retaliation, and discrimination, which included cutting off Ms. Trussler’s telecommuting rights after Ms. Trussler reported discrimination against her and another employee, both of whom were disabled and telecommuting as accommodations long before Ms. Scarton was hired.  The jury found for Ms. Trussler on her retaliation claim.

The Honorable Jim Rogers presided over the three-week jury trial.  The jury deliberated for a total of two days before reaching its verdict, which included lost wages totaling $600,000.00 and emotional harm damages totaling $600,000.00.  The jury also recommended that Ms. Trussler be reinstated.  Jack Sheridan, the attorney representing Ms. Trussler, said, “The decision as to whether reinstatement is appropriate will be decided by Judge Rogers at a later date.”

Mr. Sheridan said, “This has been a terrible ordeal for Stacy.  She is so grateful for the jury’s verdict.  After trying for years to get someone at WSDOT to listen to her complaints, the jury’s attention and understanding are everything to her.”

Mr. Sheridan said, Ms. Trussler testified that by October 2014, she was so upset with the conduct of Ms. Scarton, Ms. Woehler, and Human Resources, that she called the WSDOT Assistant Secretary of Strategic, Enterprise Services, Katy Taylor, and reported what she believed to be misconduct amounting to discrimination and fraud.

At trial, Ms. Taylor could not recall most of the facts, so most of her written statement was read to the jury (see below).  She admitted that she did not follow up on Ms. Trussler’s report, and that she told the substance of the report to the persons identified by Ms. Trussler as having engaged in misconduct.

Mr. Sheridan said, “Beginning in January 2015, Ms. Trussler was sent home on what plaintiff alleged were trumped up charges of time card fraud, and while she was gone with orders not to communicate with anyone other than WSDOT Director of Human Resources Jeff Pelton, the management team dismantled the UPO, so when she returned in June, after it became obvious that she would be vindicated, she was subject to a “lay-off” of just one person (Ms. Trussler ) and all of her direct reports were assigned elsewhere.  She was then placed in another job that would soon also be eliminated and after that placement she was told she could not perform the job owing to her disability.  She was later “disability separated” in February 2016.  Except for a brief homework assignment in June, from June 2015 to February 2016, she was never placed in a job.”

image3

Click here to see Trussler Complaint

Click here to see the Trussler $1.2 million jury verdict

Click here to see a copy of Katy Taylor’s witness statement

Click here to see a copy of Heidi Mabbott’s witness statement

Click here to see Heidi Mabbott’s trial testimony

Click here to see a copy of Kerri Woehler’s December 2014 memo denying telecommuting

Click here to see Amy Scarton’s letter sending Ms. Trussler home for “investigation”

Click here to see HR Manager Todd Dowler’s letter to Jack on return issues

Click here to see article on Ms. Trussler–“Women in Industry Leadership”

Click here to see Ms. Trussler’s 2011 performance review

Click here to see Ms. Trussler’s performance review (signed in 2013)

 

PNNL Director Files Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint in Federal Court After DOE/IG Fails to Complete Investigation

April 24, 2018

Richland, WA

After ten months of waiting for the DOE Inspector General to complete its investigation into whistleblower retaliation by Battelle/PNNL, today Management Director Aleta Busselman used the “kickout” provision of the federal whistleblower law to leave the administrative forum and to file a complaint in federal district court making the same allegations, but this time asking a jury to hold Battelle/PNNL accountable and asking a judge to order that she be returned to her position.

The complaint alleges retaliation for opposing management efforts to change a root cause finding that management lacked policies and procedures to prevent a $530,000 theft at PNNL.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provides scientific expertise in support of the Department of Energy including the Hanford cleanup.

On December 16, 2016, a subcontractor invoice for approximately $530,000.00 was authorized for payment by Battelle/PNNL personnel and was electronically paid to a new bank account by the U.S. Treasury Department to a fraudulent requestor, who withdrew the funds from the new bank account within a few days and closed the account.

Ms. Busselman and her team examined the fraudulent payment and determine the root cause.  In a March 2017 report, her team determined the root cause to be that Battelle/PNNL management did not clearly define adequate controls to prevent theft by external criminal entities in the Vendor Management Process.

Battelle/PNNL management sought to water down the root cause finding to make management look better, because as one manager said to Ms. Busselman, the finding makes management look like we were “asleep at the wheel.”

On March 31, 2017, Ms. Busselman wrote to her boss opposing management’s efforts to change the language of the root cause finding. She wrote, “We do not just let concerned stakeholders manipulate root causes at the end of the process to make us sound better.”  She also wrote, “I am not going to make this team sign a product they can’t stand behind.”  Her boss assured her that she had his support.  She went on vacation, and upon her return she was removed from her position.

The April report changed the language of the root cause finding consistent with management’s wishes.

Ms. Busselman was removed from her job, put in an office with no windows, and given no new job responsibilities.  She complained internally, she filed an employee concern with DOE, she emailed her management asking to be reinstated and that her team be protected, and when no action was taken to fix the problem, she filed this complaint.

Attorney Jack Sheridan stated, “federal whistleblowers have long suffered because government agencies whose task it is to investigate whistleblower retaliation claims, take no action, sometimes for years.  For some federal whistleblower laws, Congress has wisely permitted whistleblowers to leave the administrative forum if the agency fails to timely investigate.  Ms. Busselman is heading for federal court because DOE-IG has made no headway in this case over the course of ten months.”

Jack said, “Taxpayers spend almost $1 Billion per year to operate PNNL.  In exchange, we expect operational integrity.  Ms. Busselman has invested 30 years in this company. She loves her job and her company.  She filed this complaint to ensure that PNNL management lives up to her belief that Battelle is an ethical company that works in the public interest, and to ensure that integrity trumps politics at PNNL.”

Ms. Busselman remains employed at PNNL, but has not been returned to her position.

Contact:

Jack Sheridan
The Sheridan Law Firm, P.S.
705 2nd Ave., Suite 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Tel:   206-381-5949

Click here to see Busselman filed complaint

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article on federal claim

 

Mayor Young’s Problems Continue in Wake of Atwood Jury Verdict–now recall petition

August 1, 2018

Kennewick, WA

May Steve Young now faces a recall petition based in part on his testimony during the Atwood v. MSA and Steve Young trial.

Click here to see recall petition

 

Judge Rejects MSA’s Motion for a New Trial and Awards Attorney Fees and Costs To Julie Atwood

January 10, 2018
Kennewick, WA

Today Julie Atwood won another victory against MSA and Steve Young, when Superior Court Judge Doug Federspiel denied MSA’s motion for a new trial, and awarded attorney fees and costs to Ms. Atwood.

Mission Support Alliance is three-company venture owned by Leidos, Jacobs and Centerra Group.  MSA had sought to overturn the $8.1 million jury verdict against MSA entered on October 10, 2017 for gender discrimination, wrongful discharge, and retaliation, which included a verdict against MSA Vice President (and Kennewick mayor) Steve Young for aiding and abetting the discrimination and retaliation.

In a detailed 56-page opinion, Judge Federspiel reviewed and rejected each argument raised by MSA against the verdict.  He found that the verdict was supported by substantial evidence presented at trial and that it was not a result of passion or prejudice.  He also awarded extra attorney fees and costs finding that “the [extra] attorneys’ fee incurred by her legal team [are being] awarded by this Court due to the risk of loss to the Sheridan firm had the jury returned a defense verdict, the complex nature of the factual issues, the skill of Atwood’s counsel, and the Court’s desire to encourage other attorneys to take cases such as this one. The relevant factors stated are supported by the record.”

Jack said, “Justice was done.”  “We are thankful that our trial judge took the time to closely examine the law and the facts, and to bring this case to an end.”  He noted that, “rather than treating Julie as required by law, MSA discriminated and retaliated against her, and rather than admitting to what they did, MSA paid Seattle attorneys to defend and deny their actions.  “It took years to bring this case to trial.  Justice may not always be swift, but justice happens all the same.  Julie Atwood is truly vindicated, and MSA and Steve Young have truly been held accountable for their misconduct.”

Click here to see Court’s 56-page opinion

MSA Seeks New Trial, But Provides No New Evidence In Atwood Case

December 21, 2017
Kennewick, WA

Today MSA’s Counsel, Denise Ashbaugh, argued for a new trial in an attempt to overturn the jury’s verdict of $8.1 million in the Atwood v. MSA and Steve Young retaliation, discrimination, and aiding and abetting case.

The Motion for a New Trial did not challenge the retaliation verdict against MSA for violating the Washington Law Against Discrimination, or the retaliation verdict against MSA for violating the common law claim of wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, or the aiding and abetting verdict against MSA Vice President Steve Young for supporting MSA’s retaliation.

In the post-trial motion, MSA claimed that there was not enough evidence to support only the gender discrimination verdict and the aiding and abetting verdict against Steve Young for supporting gender discrimination.  MSA also argued that the verdict was too large.

Jack Sheridan stated that the verdicts were carefully reached by twelve jurors who sat through the entire trial and heard all the evidence.

Jack’s brief to the Court outlined the strong evidence in support of the verdicts and the damage award.  Jack states here, “some companies seriously hurt their workers without a thought about the damage they do, and then they whine when they are held accountable in front of a jury. Don’t shed a tear for MSA or Steve Young.  MSA managers were bullies, they lied to the jury, they were in the wrong, they acted intentionally, and they hurt Julie badly.”  Jack said, “The three companies that make up MSA, each worth billions, will have to pay the damages awarded by the jury to make Julie whole. The damages here are not designed to punish MSA—only to compensate Julie for what they did to her.  To punish MSA, given its wealth, the jury would have had to award hundreds of millions of dollars.  We didn’t ask the jury to do that.

 

Click here to see Atwood response to Motion for a new trial.

Click here to see recent Tri-Cities article on MSA’s argument.

Click here to see the jury’s verdict

Click here to see Trial Exhibit 16

 

Defendant MSA is Really Three Giant Companies: Leidos, Jacobs, and Centerra Group

According to their website, MSA represents the joining of three companies to perform work for the Department of Energy.  Their website describes the companies as follows:

Mission Support Alliance is made up of Leidos, Jacobs and Centerra Group – as well as several partners with specialized Hanford expertise. MSA provides integrated infrastructure services for the Hanford cleanup mission, including, but not limited to: roads and transportation services; electrical and water services; facility maintenance; emergency response (fire and patrol) services; network and software engineering; cyber security and records management; as well as environmental compliance and clean energy solutions.

Mission Support Alliance, LLC

  • Leidos brings a mix of innovative technology and sector expertise to customers in civil, defense, intelligence & homeland security, and health markets. We look for solutions that not only transform businesses, but change the world.
  • Jacobs is one of the world’s largest and most diverse providers of professional technical services. Jacobs has a 40-year history of operating, decommissioning, and closing nuclear facilities and operating bases and command centers for large-scale Department of Defense (DOD) and NASA programs.  We have successfully completed projects at DOE sites such as Fernald, Hanford, Oak Ridge, and Weldon Springs.
  • Centerra Group contractually performs security, law enforcement, operations and maintenance, fire suppression and prevention, facility services management, training, emergency medical services, airfield management, and aircraft operation and maintenance for federal, state and local government agencies.  Centerra Group has more than 50 years of direct experience supporting DOE programs.

 http://msa.hanford.gov/page.cfm/TeamingPartners

Julie Atwood Vindicated—Jury Awards $8.1 Million In Damages For MSA’s Retaliation And Discrimination–MSA VP Steve Young found to have Aided and Abetted

October 10, 2017

Kennewick, WA

Today a jury awarded Julie Atwood damages in the amount of $8.1 million against Hanford contractor Mission Support Alliance (MSA) for retaliation and discrimination.  The jury also found that MSA Vice President and Kennewick Mayor Steve Young aided and abetted in MSA’s wrongful actions.

Ms. Atwood had a thirty-year career working as a manager for the Washington State Department of Ecology and later for private companies involved in waste management. She was an Ecology regulator at Hanford, and had experience working there going back to the days when Hanford was still producing plutonium.  After Ecology, she worked for Hanford, and non-Hanford companies. Her employment track was a record of promotions and increased job responsibilities.  She joined MSA in 2010 as a program manager and was evaluated as a top performer by her MSA managers and her customer, which is the Department of Energy (DOE).

For most of his career, Steve Young worked as a small business owner providing consulting services in a one-person office.  But after he became Mayor of Kennewick, he was recruited by MSA CEO Frank Armijo to be a Vice President reporting directly to Armijo.  For years, MSA billed the DOE for Young’s time based on his working a 40-hour week.  At trial, Young admitted that he worked 16-20 hours a week every week on mayor-related business, and denied that he ever worked less than a 40-hour week for MSA.  However, Young admitted he used his DOE office, his DOE computer, and his DOE email address for mayor business—all during the work day.

At trial, Young testified that being mayor advantaged MSA and DOE:

  • “The biggest return on me being a mayor is the Department of Energy.  I’m able to do what the Department of Energy can’t do because I’m an elected official.”
  • “My job, one of my jobs as mayor, is the ability to go back, meet with the [U.S.] Senate, meet with the House.”
  • “I can actually bump a regular citizen and testify before a committee about an issue because I’m an elected official.”
  • “I use my vacation to go back and lobby — and I’ll use the word lobby — for the local [DOE] offices for the needs that they have to try to get the money they need for the Hanford site.”

Julie was fired three days after she was interviewed by two internal investigators, who reported to MSA vice presidents that Julie had stated that Young had created a hostile work environment, that he treated her differently, and that he used work time to do mayor-related business.  Julie was humiliated by having to bring her belongings from her office to her car during the work day using a wheelchair as a carrier under escort by MSA attorney Steve Cherry.

Jack said, “At trial we contended that Young was so valuable to MSA and to the DOE that when they perceived that Julie has focused a spotlight on him with her report to the investigators, MSA took immediate action to terminate her.”

There was also evidence that under Armijo, women were treated differently, and that men who engaged in improper acts were not fired.  This raised the question: if MSA and Young thought she did something wrong, why was there no counseling, progressive discipline, or use of a performance improvement plan before her termination (there was evidence that Julie was investigated in 2013 without her knowledge). Why did MSA fire Julie, but not fire men who actually engaged in serious misconduct?

The jury found that Julie was fired in retaliation for her statements made to investigators and that her gender was a substantial factor in her termination.  Jack said, “Julie was a model employee and her integrity, and the fact that she is a woman, got her fired.  MSA hurt her and humiliated her, and the jury held MSA accountable.  The system worked.  Hopefully, MSA management will learn from this verdict.”

The jury awarded $2.1 million in lost wages, which is the amount of loss calculated by labor economist Paul Torelli, Ph.D., and $6 million in emotional harm damages, which was supported by the expert testimony of Laura Brown, Ph.D.

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article

Click here to see US News and World Report article

Click here to see the jury’s verdict

Click here to see Steve Young first day testimony

Click here to see Steve Young second day testimony

Click here to see $10,000,000.00 bond posted by MSA to cover costs, fees, and interest on appeal

Formula for Blacklisting at Hanford: have a high-level MSA executive say that Julie Atwood is being investigated for time card fraud; then MSA fires Julie Atwood; MSA leaves the impression Julie was fired for time card fraud, when she was actually fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on Steve Young.

Click here to see DOE managers’ trial testimony

Doug Shoop

Page 6-7: Shoop recalls MSA COO Dave Ruscitto says someone being investigated for time care fraud, but not sure if it’s Atwood; pages 8: Shoop says Greg Jones is responsible for ensuring contractors comply with time requirements.

Former DOE Manager

Page 16: Manager testifies that Shoop told him heard from Dave Ruscitto that Julie Atwood being investigated; he tells Atwood

Greg Jones

Page 30: Jones is good friends with Steve Young

Page 31: Young and Jones both on Kennewick City Council

Page 32: Jones says didn’t know Atwood being investigated for time card fraud in September 2013

Page 32: Jones says heard Atwood was fired for time card fraud

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT MSA BILLED U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY  FOR LEGAL FEES AND COSTS THROUGHOUT THIS LITIGATION TOTALING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS?

A little-known fact is that DOE pays the litigation fees and costs of Hanford contractors who are sued for whistleblower retaliation and discrimination.  Julie Atwood obtained some of the invoices sent to DOE by MSA’s Seattle attorneys through FOIA.  There are more.  How can DOE oversee MSA’s conduct if they are financing MSA’s legal defense?

Click here to see MSA’s law firm billing records to DOE

Click here to see more  attorney fees billed to DOE by MSA.

040318 DOE FOIA Response cover letter

Click here to see more Law Firm Invoices

 

Judge Sanctions Hanford Government Contractor MSA For Hiding Documents In The Atwood v. MSA And Young Discrimination/Whistleblower Lawsuit, which Is Set For Trial On September 11, 2017.

June 20, 2017

Yakima, WA

Today Yakima Superior Court Judge Douglas Federspeil sanctioned Hanford Government Contractor MSA for hiding documents and the existence of a witness who should have been disclosed as a part of the discovery process during the lawsuit. MSA’s former general counsel had reported that former CEO Frank Armijo had treated her with disrespect and paid her and other women below what men were being paid.  She also reported that she was retaliated against, demoted, and forced to resign after she complained.  She ultimately filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint with the EEOC.  Between March 2016 and February 2017, the plaintiff asked for discovery on three separate occasions, which should have caused MSA to produce the EEOC complaint in response, but MSA secretly withheld the EEOC complaint and all related documents while claiming that it had provided all information and documents responsive to the plaintiff’s requests.  The Court found “MSA’s May 23, 2016 discovery answer was ‘misleading,’ as it led plaintiff to believe that all ‘gender discrimination, whistleblower, and/or retaliation complaints, from 2011 to the present’ would be identified by MSA and produced.” Order at ¶80.

During the litigation, plaintiff served the former general counsel with a subpoena, which MSA knew would result in production of the EEOC complaint.  MSA’s counsel attempted to quash the subpoena arguing to the Court that the request was a “was nothing more than a fishing expedition, and raised claims that the content of [the former general counsel’s] document production and testimony would be subject to attorney client privilege.” Order at ¶30. The Court denied the motion, and only then did MSA produce the EEOC complaint to the plaintiff.  Judge Federspeil found that MSA waited to produce the EEOC complaint and the other documents until after learning that the Court would not quash the subpoena. Order at 33.

MSA violated a separate order issued on February 3, 2017, compelling MSA to produce documents “without further delay,” which should have also resulted in production of the EEOC complaint and related documents before the motion to quash was heard.  Order at ¶23.  The Court found that the EEOC complaint and related documents should have been produced in May 2016 and “the lack of disclosure in May 2016 with respect to both the external and internal complaints [by the general counsel and others] reveals either an incompetent investigation (i.e., a lack of a reasonable inquiry), or an intentional withholding of evidence. . . There is simply no reasonable excuse for these omissions, which necessarily call into question the claim that MSA consistently conducted a “reasonable, good faith search for documents.” Order at ¶22.  The Court found, “there can be no question that defendant has stymied plaintiff’s ability to investigate the facts and thereby prejudiced her ability to prepare for trial.” Order at ¶90.

The imposition of sanctions for discovery abuses is mandatory.  Order at ¶73.  As a penalty, the Court ordered that plaintiff can reopen discovery, and the Court ordered MSA to pay plaintiff’s reasonable attorney’s fees and all costs related to the additional discovery caused by MSA’s misconduct, and ordered MSA to certify that it is not withholding any other responsive documents.  Order at ¶¶96-97.  A jury trial is set for September 11, 2017.  Jack Sheridan, Ms. Atwood’s attorney, stated, “We appreciate Judge Federspeil’s attention to this matter, and we look forward to getting the discovery we need so we can get this case to trial in September.”

Click here to see Judge’s Order

DOE Announces Investigation of Busselman Whistleblower Complaint Against Government Contractor Battelle/PNNL

July 13, 2017

Washington, DC

Today the Department of Energy Office of the Inspector General announced that it has initiated an investigation regarding Ms. Busselman’s removal from her position in retaliation for opposing management efforts to change a root cause finding that management lacked policies and procedures to prevent a $530,000 theft at Battelle/PNNL in 2016.

Jack Sheridan, Ms. Busselman’s attorney stated, “We are very pleased that the Inspector General is moving forward with the investigation. The sooner they investigate the sooner Ms. Busselman can be reinstated into her position and policies can be put in place to protect her and her department from improper management pressure to change root cause findings, which they may not like.” “PNNL is supported by taxpayer dollars, and we demand integrity in the operation of our national labs.”

Click here to see DOE/IG letter

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article on DOE/IG investigation

Click here to see King5 News story on DOE/IG investigation

NOTICE TO POTENTIAL WITNESSES: UNLESS YOU ARE CURRENTLY EMPLOYED TOP MANAGEMENT (MEANING YOU SIGN DOCUMENTS AS PART OF YOUR JOB TO LEGALLY BIND THE COMPANY), YOU CAN TALK TO ME.  IF PNNL MANAGEMENT TELLS YOU OTHERWISE, LET ME KNOW.  THE LAW PROTECTS YOU FROM RETALIATION AND FROM BEING CHARGED WITH INSUBORDINATION FOR TALKING TO ME.

CLICK HERE TO SEE SUPREME COURT CASE THAT SAYS WITNESSES CAN BE INTERVIEWED

Director Files Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint With DOE/IG After Being Removed From Job For Opposing Management’s Direction To Change “Root Cause” Finding That Blamed PNNL Management In $530,000 Theft At PNNL

June 21, 2017

Richland, WA

Today Battelle/PNNL Issues Management Director Aleta Busselman filed a complaint with the DOE Inspector General alleging retaliation for opposing management efforts to change a root cause finding that management lacked policies and procedures to prevent a $530,000 theft at PNNL.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory provides scientific expertise in support of the Department of Energy including the Hanford cleanup.

When mistakes happened at PNNL, it was the job of Aleta Busselman and her team to determine the direct and root cause of the event. The root cause conclusion is made by highly trained experts on her team.  Under policies and procedures guiding their work, a root cause conclusion is not subject to management manipulation.  Management are not trained or qualified to determine a root cause.

On November 9, 2016, a request was made via email to the PNNL Procurement Director to change the bank account for electronic payments going to a subcontractor. The email included the company logo and a new email address.

On December 16, 2016, a subcontractor invoice for approximately $530,000.00 was authorized for payment by Battelle/PNNL personnel, and was electronically paid to a new bank account by the U.S. Treasury Department to a fraudulent requestor, who withdrew the funds from the new bank account within a few days and closed the account.

Ms. Busselman and her team examined the fraudulent payment and determine the root cause.  In a March 2017 report, her team determined the root cause to be that management did not clearly define adequate controls to prevent theft by external criminal entities in the Vendor Management Process.

PNNL management sought to water down the root cause finding to make management look better, because as one manager said to Ms. Busselman, the finding makes management look like we were “asleep at the wheel.”

On March 31, 2017, Ms. Busselman wrote to her boss opposing management’s efforts to change the language of the root cause finding. She wrote, “We do not just let concerned stakeholders manipulate root causes at the end of the process to make us sound better.”  She also wrote, “I am not going to make this team sign a product they can’t stand behind.”  Her boss assured her that she had his support.  She went on vacation, and upon her return she was removed from her position.

The April report changed the language of the root cause finding consistent with management’s wishes.

Ms. Busselman was removed from her job, put in an office with no windows, and given no new job responsibilities.  She complained internally, she filed an employee concern with DOE, she emailed her management asking to be reinstated and that her team be protected, and when no action was taken to fix the problem, she filed this complaint.

Jack Sheridan stated, “It defeats the purpose of a root cause analysis to let lay persons input into root cause findings, but when management seeks to change a root cause finding that points to management’s failures, it’s also a conflict of interest.”

Jack said, “Taxpayers spend almost $1 Billion per year to operate PNNL.  In exchange, we expect operational integrity.  Ms. Busselman has invested 30 years in this company. She loves her job and her company.  She filed this complaint to ensure that PNNL management lives up to her belief that Battelle is an ethical company that works in the public interest, and to ensure that integrity trumps politics at PNNL.”

“Her goal is to have the DOE IG order that she be reinstated and that her team be protected from further efforts to manipulate their findings.”

 

Click here to see Busselman Complaint

Click here to see Sheridan Email to DOE IG re: filing

Click here to see DOE IG email acknowledging receipt of complaint

Click here to see March 2017 Cause Analysis Report

Click here to see April 2017 Cause Analysis Report

Click here to see March email exchange in which Busselman opposes manipulation

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article on Busselman complaint

Click here to see King 5 news story on Busselman

Click here to see Tri-City Herald article on PNNL’s work on Hanford cleanup

Click here to see Busselman resume tracking 30 year career at Battelle/PNNL

Trial Postponed; Hanford Executive Julie Atwood Files Updated Sanctions Motion Against MSA

May 3, 2017
Kennewick, WA

The trial in Ms. Atwood’s discrimination/retaliation case against Hanford Contractor MSA, which was set to begin on May 1, 2017,  was postponed owing to unresolved motions, including a sanctions motion filed in February by Ms. Atwood.  Since the February filing, plaintiff alleges that MSA continued to engage in additional pre-trial misconduct in violation of a court order, including dumping 6,500 documents on plaintiff, which should have been produced in 2016, two weeks before trial.  The latest production includes more documents from MSA’s former general counsel (see below).

The current motion seeks the harshest sanction: entering a default judgment for the plaintiff.  Jack Sheridan, Ms. Atwood’s attorney, stated, “MSA has unlimited resources and unlimited time.  They have no incentive to comply with court orders.  They win by dragging this case out until Ms. Atwood runs out of resources.  The only way to deter MSA and their attorneys from ongoing misconduct is to enter judgment for the plaintiff on liability and proceed to trial on damages.  Otherwise this case, which was filed in 2015, may drag on for another year or more.”

Click here to see Atwood memo re: sanctions

Click here to see Sheridan 2nd Supp Declaration

Click here to see Rose Declaration Part 1

Click here to see Rose Declaration Part 2

Click here to see Morland Declaration

Click here to see Atwood Declaration

Click here to see Atwood proposed findings of fact

 

February 2017

On February 3, 2017, pursuant to plaintiff’s motion to compel production of MSA’s former general counsel’s EEOC complaint and other such documents, Benton County Judge Carrie Runge ordered MSA to produce the documents “without further delay.”  The day before, MSA had filed an emergency motion requesting that the subpoena be stricken. In a sworn statement in support of the motion, MSA’s attorney stated, “I also noted that any claims by [MSA’s former general counsel] against MSA, who voluntarily left MSA over two years after Ms. Atwood’s employment ended, was nothing more than a fishing expedition designed to harass MSA.”

MSA Attorney Denise Ashbaugh’s Declaration re: subpoena of MSA’s former general counsel

MSA’s Motion to Quash Subpoena of MSA’s former general counsel

MSA’s motion was heard by Judge Bruce Spanner on February 7, 2017.   The “fishing expedition” argument was repeated, but Judge Spanner denied MSA’s motion nevertheless.

The next day, MSA produced sixteen pages of documents pursuant to Judge Runge’s order, which included the EEOC complaint filed by MSA’s former general counsel.

Jack said, “In my view, MSA sought to mislead two judges and the plaintiff by making a bad faith argument claiming that plaintiff was on a  “fishing expedition” for irrelevant documents, all the while withholding the very relevant documents in violation of  Judge Runge’s order, which required that they be produced ‘without further delay.'”

Jack said, “MSA did not produce the documents related to MSA’s former general counsel before the hearing with Judge Spanner.  Instead they orchestrated this so I had to make my argument to Judge Spanner against quashing the subpoena without being able to show Judge Spanner the EEOC complaint and other documents, which would have clearly shown that this was not a fishing expedition.  This misleading behavior by MSA violates the Civil rules and justifies sanctions.”

The deposition of MSA’s former general counsel went forward on February 10, 2017.  At the deposition, Jack learned that:

  • MSA’s former general counsel was hired as MSA’s general counsel by then CEO Frank Figueroa, who treated her as a colleague and with respect.
  • When Frank Armijo replaced Figueroa, Armijo took away many of her duties, and at a meeting, in front of other executives, told her to “You need to shut up.”   Armijo did not treat men this way.
  • Over time, MSA’s former general counsel complained to MSA’s Board “how Frank Armijo, Dave Ruscitto, Todd Beyers, and later Stan Bensussen, had unlawfully treated me.”  The Board took no action.
  • She was demoted by Armijo, but without losing salary, and was replaced by Stan Bensussen, who had been doing contract work MSA before being hired as general counsel.  She testified that Bensussen called her a “man hater,” and told her that day he said, “You should kiss the ground they walk on that you still have a job.”
  • MSA’s former general counsel testified that she was not paid comparably as compared to MSA men, and that she was driven out.

Much of this is summarized in her response to the EEOC, which is Exhibit 6 to the Sheridan Dec.

Click here to see Exhibit 6

Click here to see ATWOOD Amended Motion for Contempt

Click here to see Sheridan first declaration in support of Motion for Contempt

Click here to see Sheridan second declaration in support of motion

The plaintiff seeks additional discovery, attorney fees and costs, and the imposition of a penalty.  Judge Runge will hear the plaintiff’s motion for contempt and sanction at 8:30 on April 14, 2017.

The defendant had sought to have Judge Runge reconsider her order compelling MSA to produce documents.  That motion was denied.

Click here to see order denying MSA’s motion for reconsideration.