October 17, 2014

Issues Pertaining to the Termination of Ms. Donna Busche, a Contractor Employee at the Waste Treatment Plant Project

On March 6, 2014, the Office of the Secretary of Energy requested that the Inspector General review the circumstances surrounding the February 18, 2014, termination of the employment of Ms. Donna Busche by URS Energy and Construction, Inc. (URS). URS is a major subcontractor under the Department of Energy's contract with Bechtel National, Inc. (Bechtel) to design and construct the multi-billion dollar Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) at the Department's Hanford Washington Site. Ms. Busche asserted whistleblower status based on the disclosure of what she believed to be technical and safety concerns regarding the WTP. She also asserted that her termination was in retaliation for these disclosures. Because of a material scope limitation, we were unable to reach a conclusion in this matter. Specifically, Bechtel and URS told us that they could not provide access to several thousand contractor-documents based on the advice of outside counsel because they were subject to either attorney-client or attorney work product privilege. Thus, we were unable to complete our inquiry and accordingly disclaim any opinion regarding the circumstances of Ms. Busche's termination.

Topic: Management & Administration