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Sunday, June 17, 2018

The story of Randy and Anthony

Did Division Superintendent Randy Pico and Technical Associate Anthony 
Rivera bump heads over HEAF employee high voltage/high energy SKA
requirements?

Division Superintendents have a significant role and responsibility in the construction of job postings within their respective Divisions and in candidate selection. It looks like there were strong differences in high voltage/high energy SKA requirements for a HEAF assignment between Anthony Rivera and then Division Superintendent Randy Pico (“LLNS Manager A”?) as early as 2007.

From a 2015 “La Jicarita On-Line Magazine” story:

“In the early 2000s Rivera was responsible for correctly identifying a dangerous, unintentional high power laser initiated, High Explosive detonation scenario not addressed in the High Explosive Applications Facility (HEAF) Safety Procedures documentation. This safety concern was reviewed and subsequently included in the HEAF Safety Procedures. Prior to Rivera’s operational procedure correction, HEAF experimenters and technicians could have been exposed to High Explosive material subject to a time delayed explosive detonation causing injuries or fatalities.

In 2007 Rivera initiated a LLNL “Work Stop” for what he believed to be another imminent and potentially lethal threat to employees in HEAF. At the time Rivera had voluntarily moved from HEAF to another division at LLNL and became concerned about the qualifications of the employee who was hired to replace him in HEAF.

Before leaving his HEAF assignment in 2006 and accepting a lateral position at the National Ignition Facility, Rivera offered to review his LLNS B-Division funded assignment in HEAF with the employee who was hired to replace him. In 2007, as promised, Rivera had a meeting with this new HEAF employee.

According to Rivera, the employee was unqualified to work on potentially lethal high voltage, high energy Flash-Lamp Bank hardware that might place multiple employees in direct harm to electrocution. After numerous attempts by Rivera to have this safety concern addressed at a lower level with LLNS Manager “A”, this manager forced a subordinate employee, the Responsible Individual for this set of High Voltage, High Energy diagnostics, to accept and “add” the unqualified employee to the Integrated Work Sheet (IWS) paperwork without delay. The IWS is a project specific document that identifies a project’s purpose, procedures, hazards, and qualified employees approved by the IWS author and Responsible Individual.

Rivera then provided the 2007 “Work Stop” documentation to the NNSA Livermore Field office Employee Concerns Program Manager that detailed LLNL employment job posting fraud and the negligent assignment of an employee without the “Skills, Knowledge, and Abilities” to perform the job safely or effectively. LLNS Manager “A”, author of the job posting and responsible for creating that dangerous 2007 scenario, was subsequently promoted to a position of greater authority within Engineering.”

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

An employee identified safety issue that points to leadership negligence is never well received or forgotten, especially with politically untouchable lab managers.

Anonymous said...

Anthony Rivera is alone qualified to assess the SKA of his replacement? This is absurd. I can see his professional opinion having some weight, but to say he has the absolute opinion is rather presumptuous. As far as his interactions with “LLNS Manager A” go, well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Political situational awareness is at least as useful as technical ability.

Anonymous said...


"Anthony Rivera is alone qualified to assess the SKA of his replacement? This is absurd. I can see his professional opinion having some weight, but to say he has the absolute opinion is rather presumptuous. As far as his interactions with “LLNS Manager A” go, well, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Political situational awareness is at least as useful as technical ability."

Perhaps you are new to the lab. Your "you pays your money and you takes your choice" and your "political situational awareness" comments might make you believe you are street smart until a coworker gets electrocuted. You wouldn't want to tell a lab employee's widow you didn't speak up because you were being politically savvy and protecting your own career.

When working on a safety issues in good faith, ones technical background should override self-serving "political situational awareness", meaning of course, employee reprisal avoidance. Let's call it what it is. Your viewpoint is precisely why so many preventable lab accidents keep happening. Politically untouchable LLNS managers just compound the problem

Anonymous said...


June 22, 2018 at 4:30 PM
"Perhaps you are new to the lab."


If a single disgruntled employee was the ultimate arbiter of electrical safety, you might have a point. If this single disgruntled employee’s concern was not part of the record, you might have a point. If the system that this disgruntled employee worked in was compelled to unquestioningly follow and enforce his technical safety opinions, then you might have a point.

If you were aware of the disgruntled employee’s and Manager A’s individual separate histories over the past 30 years, you might have a point. If you knew who Aldous Huxley was, you might have a point. If you think I am new to the lab, you might have a point. If you have ever taken a professional risk, (political, not safety), then you might have a point.

If you, on the other hand, play it safe, prefer to have the adults arbitrate your relationships, and believe you are entitled to do-overs, then you might have a point.

Anonymous said...

"If a single disgruntled employee was the ultimate arbiter of electrical safety, you might have a point."

A typical Staff Relations like response. Lab managers are never at fault, they just have to deal with disgruntled (discredited) employees. Boring

Anonymous said...

9:32 is exactly right. That is what staff relations says and enforces. Now, what are you going to do about it? I suggest leaving when you’re in that situation and move on to a better job. Fighting that system is impossible.

Anonymous said...

"If a single disgruntled employee was the ultimate arbiter of electrical safety, you might have a point."


If the ~$300K milestone driven HEAF project acknowledged in 2007 for its successes by WCI under the leadership of Charles Verdon, didn't collapse later in 2007 after the project team of Mr. Rivera and the Sr. Mechanical Technologist left HEAF, "you might have a point".

If in 2013, if the JASPER Team didn't programmatically fund Mr. Rivera to resurrect that old flash-lamp bank high voltage hardware in HEAF, and also didn't have Mr. Rivera help design a new JASPER flash-lamp bank, "you might have a point".

If in 2013, Mr. Rivera's replacement who was already on the JASPER payroll, could have completed these engineering JASPER assignments with a level of expertise and confidence acknowledged by JASPER management, "you might have a point".

It doesn't appear as though Mr. Rivera alone "was the ultimate arbiter of electrical safety", nor was he the ultimate arbiter of SKA compatibility, since it was JASPER management that declared Mr. Rivera (and not his replacement already on the JASPER payroll) a "subject matter expert", and well suited for the assignment.

If these facts didn't reflect poorly on the leadership of "Manager A", and weren't financially costly to WCI, "you might have a point". Of course you may use the disgruntled employee card but as the saying goes, "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts".

Anonymous said...

This particular disgruntled employee obviously thought very highly of himself, and thought others should too. His placement as a Technical Associate meant that Manager A was the top of his food chain. One wonders if he tended that garden well, and the seemingly obvious answer is “No.” I have seen this happen a few times, and Manager A would not be my first choice, but it’s not really about just that, it’s also about his relationship with the HEAF and JASPER program people. So he got crossed up with Manager A and HEAF/JASPER program people. Bad move, and he owns all of it. This is the part where situational awareness may have helped him.

One thing is for sure, it’s all about relationships. For some reason this disgruntled employee willingly placed himself at the center of this hardware controversy. He had an opportunity to add his SKA to HEAF/JASPER problems, and decided the best way to do that was to get everyone to focus their attention on him. It worked. But it was not the kind of attention he wanted. “You pays your money and takes your choice.”

Anonymous said...

"This particular disgruntled employee obviously thought very highly of himself, and thought others should too. His placement as a Technical Associate meant that Manager A was the top of his food chain. One wonders if he tended that garden well, and the seemingly obvious answer is “No.” "

More opinions devoid of hard facts. I'm not sure what you mean by garden tending, but it sounds self-serving at the expense of coworker safety. Perhaps you should inform Secretary Perry that you and your like-minded LLNS coworkers do not support the DOE "questioning attitude" philosophy, because tending the garden for job security and upward mobility is far more important.

Prior to 2007, the only material interaction between Mr. Rivera and "Manager A" was the desire of "Manager A" to have Mr. Rivera add several Native American lab employees to his Association of Ethnic Minorities (AEM) group, which they did. The AEM group sought to improve employment opportunities for all minorities working at LLNL in the early 90s.

"Manager A" didn't formally join the AEM group, he was more of a behind the scenes supportive spectator. In this way, "Manager A" could quietly support AEM members while as you say, tend the garden with his managerial food chain. A strategy that worked well for him, but not so well for AEM lab employees that pushed the employment opportunity envelope for all minorities working at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

LLNS management took many shady steps in order to prepare and ensure Mr. Rivera would be fired, process their intent to fire him, and then cover up what they did. These steps would not be considered working with someone in good faith in an objective and impartial review. The critical "relationship" in this case wasn't between Mr. Rivera and LLNS managers, it was between LLNS and their customer and legal trouble financier DOE/NNSA.

http://llnlthetruestory.blogspot.com/2018/06/going-through-motions.html

Anonymous said...

Please. Are we to believe that this one disgruntled employee alone possessed information that could make work safer? His concerns were noted, but not in the way he wished them to be. Apparently, anyone questioning the disgruntled employee is anti-safety. Why do you suppose HEAF/JASPER didn’t implement his suggestions and integrate him into the team? Could it be that there were other, um, engineers, that had different opinions? Could it be that his actions alienated him from the project people he needed support from? This is the very same environment we all must deal with every single day.

As for Manager A, you get what you pay for. He has had his history, as has the disgruntled employee. It looks like Manager A could work the system better than the disgruntled employee, which is not surprising with what I know of him. Competing identity politics can be hazardous to your health. Meanwhile, people continue to work at HEAF, JASPER, and dozens of other programs.

Anonymous said...



I agree this whole thing is about relationships, tending to them, maintaining them, and sometimes growing tham and other times stoping. It is the way of LLNL and many other places of work. Sometimes you take a risk in hopes it pays off but if when you put down the money on the relationship roulette than you gotta know that sometimes it does not work out, hence you pays the money you take the chances, you cannot just go to the casino and say this is not fair. You are the one that drove to Vegas, walked into the casino, bought the chips and played the wheel. Perhaps it cashed in on the past but you know it does not always work out. Everything is a relation at LANL, there are only relations, you need to be aware that some of the relations have relations with others, perhaps you should not see relations as a Casino. Now that we have this whole thing cleared up we can move on.

Anonymous said...

Relationships, networking, and tending the career garden, are all that remains important when company profits are dependent on effective mission spin, not on mission accomplishments. This model wouldn't hold up long in the real and competitive free market.

Anonymous said...

I've seen this sort of situation many times. Lots of people have safety/legal/ethical/etc. concerns at various times in their career. Some are effective at communicating those concerns and the issue ultimately gets attention. Some aren't so effective at communicating, which can make attention iffy. And an unfortunate few make it personal, a wound to the ego, losing all perspective to the point where they curdle inside over years. It seems pretty clear which path this one took.

Anonymous said...

"And an unfortunate few make it personal, a wound to the ego, losing all perspective to the point where they curdle inside over years."

Correct, "Manager A" has an ego that does not respond well to constructive criticism.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. Personal stuff on a blog that pretends to be about real issues at LLNL. Get a life, people.

Anonymous said...

"Yikes. Personal stuff on a blog that pretends to be about real issues at LLNL. Get a life, people."

Yah, leadership skills and working with employees in good faith have nothing to do with real issues at LLNL.

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