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Monday, June 06, 2005

LANL Whistleblower: "They Left Me For Dead"

Tommy Hook
When Susan Hook first saw her husband, Tommy, at St. Vincent Hospital, she saw a man beaten and swollen, as shown in this picture. He told her, "They left me for dead."
The question is: Who brutally beat Hook, a whistleblower from Los Alamos National Laboratory? And why?
The intimation at today's 3 pm press conference at the Santa Fe, New Mexico law offices of Rothstein and Donatelli, from which I have just returned, is that the beating was related to Hook's upcoming testimony before Congress regarding the mismanagement he has seen during his 15-year tenure at the lab. Hook planned to speak specifically, according to his wife, about the way in which whistleblowers are treated at the lab. Such treatment, says Chuck Montano, Hook's co-plaintiff in in a March 5, 2005 lawsuit against The University of California Regents and supervisors can include lack of promotion, lack of compensation etc. But such violence as Hook experienced last weekend takes things to a new level.
According to attorney Bob Rothstein, who represents Montano and Hook in their suit, Susan Hook and Montano, Tommy Hook had been trying to meet with someone purporting to be a lab employee also experiencing difficulties as a result of whistleblowing. He had been scheduled to meet with him on Friday, June 3, but the appointment never happened. On Saturday, June 4, around 10:30 pm, when Hook already had gotten into bed, he received a call at his Los Alamos home from the purported whistleblower asking him to meet. Susan Hook was in Albuquerque visiting the Hooks' sons, who are 20 and 24 years old.
The meeting, at the caller's request, would take place at Cheeks in Santa Fe, NM, the city's only topless bar. According to Susan Hook, Tommy would not have been familiar with the club, but understood the caller did not want to meet in Los Alamos or anywhere he might be recognized.
After waiting at the bar for an hour, and after no one had showed, Tommy went to his car to leave. He already had started the car when he was grabbed from it and beaten by three to four assailants who also, according to Susan Hook's recounting of her husband's statements to her, told him to keep his "f-ing mouth shut."
While no specific mention was made of UC—whose contract to manage Los Alamos is expiring and will compete against other potential contractors for the lab's multi-million contract—or LANL, Susan Hook says there were no other reasons for her husband, who is in his early 50s, to have been beaten up. The assault, however, is the latest and most severe consequence of Hook's outspokenness about lab conditions. He also has suffered heart problems, a stroke in his eye and, approximately eight weeks ago, had to have shoulder surgery due to injuries sustained as the result of improper work facilities.
Hook remains at St. Vincent Hospital in Santa Fe with a fractured jaw, herniated disc and other injuries. He was being questioned this afternoon by the FBI which, according to Rothstein, has taken over the case from The Santa Fe Police Department, originally called to the scene.
A bouncer found Hook in the parking lot sometime after midnight and has, allegedly, provided license-plate information about the cars speeding away to the police. It is unknown if the bouncer, who was not identified, interrupted the beating or discovered Hook as the attackers were fleeing the scene. No other witnesses to the crime are known at this time.

susan hook and chuck montano
Chuck Montano, also an outspoken critic at the lab (shown here with Susan Hook), said he has not received any physical threats. Montano said that while he did not believe UC or the lab were directly responsible for Hook's beating, as in he did not believe they had hired anyone to beat him, he did believe both entities had created an atmosphere against whistleblowers where violence could happen.Despite the attack on Hook, Montano said he still intends to speak with federal investigators. "I will never be intimidated from speaking out." Both Hook and Montano also were involved in action against the lab 10 years ago regarding the Reduction in Force (RIF) at the lab. Both Hook and Montano have been project leaders at the lab, auditors and, in Hook's case, overseen actual whistleblower complaints. Montano described an environment, however, where as the result of their speaking out against waste and other problems at the lab, both have lost many of their job responsibilities.
Susan Hook learned of her husband's beating at 2 am Sunday morning when she was called at her hotel from the ER. Tuesday, June 7 is the Hooks' 30th wedding anniversary. They were scheduled to go on a cruise to Hawaii to celebrate, which might have pushed back Hook's testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee this month. The cruise has since been cancelled and Rothstein said Tommy Hook's physical prognosis is unknown at this time. Rothstein said in his 25 years of litigating against LANL. Tommy Hook always had been seen by plaintiffs as one of the lab's "straight shooters."
"He has suffered immensely from telling the truth," said Susan Hook.