July 13, 2017
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.”
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.
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
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.”