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  Tuesday, October 22, 2002

 Local News

D-B worker files suit charging retaliation
Nuclear power industry

Staff writer

PORT CLINTON -- A Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station employee has filed a lawsuit against FirstEnergy, claiming retaliation against him for reporting safety concerns.

Timothy Tackett of 320 W. Fourth St., Port Clinton, filed the lawsuit Friday in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court, asking for in excess of $25,000 in compensation.

FirstEnergy spokesman Richard Wilkins said the company has little comment on the suit, except that officials there were "surprised to find out about it, considering this person is still employed by us."

Tackett, an advanced nuclear technologist in the maintenance support department, was put on administrative leave while management investigates his safety allegations.

Wilkins said paid administrative leave is used occasionally, especially in personnel issues, but added not all employees are put on leave when they bring a problem forward.

Tackett's allegations stem partially from a Sept. 17 public meeting in which FirstEnergy officials met with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He was involved in overseeing work on the polar crane -- a large piece of equipment in the plant's containment building -- while employees replaced the reactor head. The plant has been down since February after workers found a large amount of corrosion on the reactor head.

During that meeting, Davis-Besse plant official Mike Stevens told about his personal inspection of the polar crane, which he said he found to be in unacceptable condition.

He told NRC officials he ordered the polar crane project halted until several things could be fixed, such as burnt out light bulbs replaced, metal shavings cleaned off and wiring labeled.

He also affirmed that plant officials were more concerned about safety than getting the work done on time.

In his lawsuit, Tackett says the problems did not affect the crane's ability to lift equipment, its main function for the project at hand. The suit also said many of the items put on a list after Stevens' inspection had already been documented, were considered outside the scope of the current project or were considered minor maintenance.

On Sept. 18, Tackett went to the resident NRC inspector at the plant and had a one-hour meeting, during which he brought up his concerns -- mainly that management stressed safety over schedule to the NRC, but their actions proved otherwise in the plant -- according to the suit.

"(Tackett) told the NRC that he and other individuals were under intense schedule pressures," the lawsuit stated.

Since then, enough other complaints from workers have been leveled against Davis-Besse to elevate the matter from a concern to an allegation that the NRC's Office of Investigation is looking into, according to the suit.

NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng said Monday she could neither confirm nor deny whether an allegation was being looked at by the Office of Investigation.

The day after Tackett's meeting with the resident inspector, he was removed from the plant until an investigation of his allegations could be completed.

The goal was to have Tackett back to work by the following Monday, according to the suit, but to date he is still removed from the plant.

Tackett's suit claims that he was the victim of retaliation and that he should be protected under federal and state laws, particularly the Ohio Whistleblower's Act.

He also alleged in the suit that Stevens' remarks at the NRC meeting were tantamount to slander and potential libel by being printed in local and regional newspapers.

To remove Tackett from work, the suit stated, cast doubt about the Port Clinton resident's work because removal is used only for scurrilous conduct such as theft or other serious misconduct.

Also, Tackett's suit alleged the plant became a hostile work environment for the technician because of comments made by supervisors.

Originally published Tuesday, October 22, 2002

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