Judge Craig Matheson came to a summary judgment hearing Monday fairly well convinced that Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis could not show that Bechtel National had improperly interfered with his job at the vitrification plant, Matheson said.
But instead of ruling Monday, he wanted to sleep on the issue, Matheson said in Benton County Superior Court.
"It's just too complex to rule from the bench," he said. "There are so many pieces of the puzzle."
Bechtel National had asked that a lawsuit filed by Tamosaitis against the Hanford contractor for the $12.2 billion vitrification plant be dismissed on summary judgment.
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Tamosaitis believes Bechtel wrongly interfered to get him removed from his job as the research and technology manager of the Hanford vitrification plant. Tamosaitis works for URS, Bechtel's primary subcontractor at the vitrification plant.
"We have outlined our case showing that the multiple required elements necessary to state a claim for tortious interference were not met," said Suzanne Heaston, Bechtel spokeswoman, after the hearing.
Tamosaitis said he believes he was removed from the vitrification plant project for raising safety issues. Bechtel and URS said that is not true, but Bechtel's request for summary judgment was based on other factors in the case.
Bechtel said Tamosaitis continued to be employed by URS and that Tamosaitis had not shown he incurred any economic damages. Tamosaitis had been looking for another position at URS before he was removed from the vitrification plant project, and Bechtel was unaware of any promise made to him that he could remain at the plant until he retired, Bechtel argued.
It also said that it was not meddling as a third party in Tamosaitis' employment because it had "sweeping management authority" over the project.
Tamosaitis was escorted off the project July 2 after showing up for a meeting he was told was to finalize details as part of a new assignment to head an Operations and Technology Group for the vitrification plant, he said in court documents.
He was told that Frank Russo, the Bechtel project director, wanted him off the project immediately, according to court documents filed by Tamosaitis' attorney. Tamosaitis had sent an inappropriate email that angered a Department of Energy consultant, according to Bechtel.
Tamosaitis' attorney, Jack Sheridan, characterized the email as an attempt to get a nuclear safety issue addressed.
Sheridan argued that Bechtel does not have contract authority over all vitrification plant workers, and Tamosaitis was not designated a key employee over which Bechtel could exert control.
Although Tamosaitis continues to be employed by URS, he has had little work to do since summer 2010 and none of it with the level of responsibility, authority and budget he had at the vitrification plant, he said in a court document.
"Tamosaitis alleges that his reputation in the community and his reputation in the industry have been severely damaged by the defendants' actions, and that he will lose income and professional opportunities for the remainder of his work life owing to the defendants' actions," Sheridan said in a court document.
Sheridan said after the hearing he was confident Tamosaitis' claim would meet the test of time to show Bechtel engaged in tortious interference.
Tamosaitis also has filed a lawsuit in federal court against URS and DOE.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.