FirstEnergy Corp. has accused a Toledo attorney
of committing a "grave ethical violation" for representing a former
South Carolina contractor he helped supervise at Davis-Besse in the
In a motion filed in Ottawa County Common Pleas
Court, FirstEnergy claims that a wrongful-termination lawsuit filed
on behalf of plaintiff William N. Keisler is
FirstEnergy has also filed a separate motion
asking Judge Paul Moon to disqualify Howard C. Whitcomb III as Mr.
Keislerís counsel, on the grounds that Mr. Whitcomb might have to be
called to testify about his former role with the company if the case
goes to trial. "Simply put, Whitcomb committed a grave ethical
violation when he accepted representation of Keisler as his
attorney," the motion states.
Mr. Whitcomb was employed by
Toledo Edison Co. as a Davis-Besse preventive maintenance program
manager at the time that Toledo Edison terminated Mr. Keislerís
contract in the fall of 1988.
A former Nuclear Regulatory
Commission resident inspector in South Carolina, Mr. Whitcomb became
a lawyer in the early 1990s. He has been a critic of both
FirstEnergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission throughout
Davis-Besseís record 19-month outage.
A lawsuit he filed on
behalf of Mr. Keisler on Aug. 29 contends that his client was told
to leave Davis-Besse in 1988 in retaliation for being critical of
the nuclear plant in a progress report. Mr. Keisler was under
contract to write the report as a follow-up to an incident at
Davis-Besse in 1985 when the plant temporarily lost auxiliary feed
It further states that Toledo Edison and FirstEnergy,
the nuclear plantís subsequent owner, have deceived the NRC about
the extent of problems there for 15 years, and that the regulatory
agency has ignored many concerns it has received since
Mr. Keisler, president of BKE, Inc., and Nuclear
Maintenance Integration Consultants Corp., sued FirstEnergy on six
counts, claiming violations of state and federal whistle-blower
laws, breach of contract, fraud, and
FirstEnergyís attorneys said in a motion to
dismiss the case that the lawsuit is "a clearly defective complaint
that was only filed to harass or intimidate" the
"Mr. Keisler has a legitimate complaint," Mr.
Whitcomb told The Blade. "Itís not frivolous. Itís very much on
point. It has to do with public safety."
Mr. Whitcomb said he
is legally entitled to represent Mr. Keisler. "I have no intention
of withdrawing voluntarily from this case. I donít believe there has
been any ethical violation," he said.
FirstEnergy claimed the
statute of limitations has expired for many of the allegations cited
in the lawsuit. Mr. Whitcomb disagreed.
The utility submitted
excerpts from a memo that it claims Mr. Whitcomb authored while
supervising Mr. Keisler at Toledo Edison, in which Mr. Whitcomb
identified some problems with the contractor. "The companyís defense
is that Keisler and his companyís performance was subpar," according
Mr. Keisler managed the massive rebuilding of
Davis-Besseís reactor coolant pumps in 1986, the last time the plant
undertook that multimillion dollar project. The pumps circulate
coolant water through the plantís reactor during normal
Davis-Besse has four such pumps, each built to
last 20 years. A former engineer, Andrew Siemaszko, claimed in a
whistle-blower complaint earlier this year that he was fired a year
ago because he insisted on having all four rebuilt.
to www.toledoblade.com/davisbesse for earlier stories on