The Steven Jones whistleblower trial ended with a bang Friday, with Jones charging that an Army employee was threatened into withholding his testimony about the chemical arms incinerator at Tooele Army Depot.
John Preston Creer, lawyer for Jones, said this was a serious matter and could amount to "obstruction of justice." Administrative Law Judge Ellin O'Shea did not use that phrase but observed that Creer seemed to be alleging an "obstruction of process."But the judge refused to admit the employee's testimony, which would support Jones' allegations that he was wrongfully fired as safety manager at a TAD incineration plant.
Jones spoke as both sides rested their cases before O'Shea, who traveled from San Francisco for the Labor Department court hearing in Salt Lake City.
Jones is suing EG&G Defense Materials Inc., saying he was illegally fired as the plant's safety manager for being a whistle-blower. He was fired in 1994 after less than three months on the job after leveling safety allegations about the nearly completed plant, which is designed to incinerate nearly half of the United States' chemical warfare stockpile.
EG&G officials say Jones was fired because he was a poor manager.
Jones read aloud an affidavit he had signed on Thursday, but O'Shea refused to accept the affidavit as evidence. She ruled that it would have no bearing on her decision in the wrongful-firing suit unless lawyers can persuade her to change her mind and accept it.
On the witness stand, Jones said that Philip E. Krippner, safety specialist at TAD, had told him he was willing to testify in the suit.
The matter didn't directly refer to safety deficiencies Jones has alleged concerning the incinerator; it referred to a side issue involving Jones' reporting a run-in with Henry Silvestri, general manager for the plant, which is being built by EG&G.
Jones said he telephoned Krippner Wednesday to make arrangements for him to testify on Thursday or Friday. "He told me he would not come and testify and I asked him why," Jones said, reading his own affidavit.
"He told me that Dave Jackson, senior manager for the Army's Program Manager for Chemical Demilitarization at the Tooele Army Depot, found out that he was going to testify.
"Mr. Krippner said that Dave Jackson went wild on the telephone, threatening him if he testified at my trial. Mr. Jackson further told Mr. Krippner that if he went he would be the only government official to testify at the trial."
Jones said Krippner told him that Jackson had asked, "What in the world are you doing talking to Steve Jones without EG&G's lawyers present?"
Jackson told the Deseret News, "We had been told he'd (Krippner) given a deposition" in the case. "By law, if he'd given a deposition, EG&G lawyers were supposed to be present."
When he spoke with Krippner, he was responding to that factor, he said.
"Eventually, though, it turned out not to be a deposition" but simply an affidavit. That would not have required the presence of com-pany lawyers.
"There was no conversation with the individual telling him not to testify," Jackson added.
That wasn't a plot by the Army to hush up testimony concerning the incinerator, he said. "Again, it was up to Mr. Krippner to make that decision" about whether to testify.
Jackson charged that with the last-minute affidavit, Jones is trying to lay the groundwork for an appeal in a case he has already lost.
Jones also testified that Kripp-ner told him in the same conversation that on Wednesday, Harold Oliver, the top civilian executive at TAD, drove 20 miles to where Krippner was working.
"Mr. Oliver told Mr. Krippner that if he testified at the hearing, the government would `scrutinize' him very carefully. Mr. Krippner further stated that he perceived from the conversation with Mr. Oliver that he was being threatened if he testified at my trial."
In final arguments, Creer said Jones was fired because he was "more concerned about the safety of the plant than he was about the safety of his job." EG&G officials - thinking they were up against a deadline of four or five months before the plant went "hot" and feeling pressured by the Army - were cavalier about safety deficiencies, he said.
Lois Baar, an attorney for EG&G, responded that the plant is intended to handle exceptionally dangerous chemicals. Jones couldn't protect its safety by himself. He needed a team with him. But with his abusive management style, the safety team couldn't function well, she said.
"Mr. Jones was counseled and Mr. Jones was terminated because he was a poor manager," Baar added. "People were in an uproar. . . . They were all wanting to jump ship because he was an abusive and hostile manager."