The University of California announced Friday that it is rehiring two investigators who alleged they were fired by Los Alamos National Laboratory last year to cover up fraud and mismanagement at the UC-run facility.
The announcement that former police officers Glenn A. Walp and Steven L. Doran would be placed under contract to the office of UC President Richard C. Atkinson came shortly after the men met with top university officials to discuss their claims.
Contacted by cell phone as they prepared to return to New Mexico, Walp and Doran said they would serve as consultants to the UC president as the university attempts to resolve the problems at the weapons lab.
"We're not going on lab property; we're not conducting investigations. We're just going to be sharing our knowledge of the situation [at Los Alamos] with him and his office," Doran said. They will also receive back pay to Nov. 25, the date of their summary dismissal by the lab's former managers, university officials said.
The FBI, the Department of Energy and several congressional committees are investigating the men's claim of a cover-up, along with allegations of credit-card abuse, missing equipment and other problems. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has warned that the university's 60-year-old contract to run the lab has been jeopardized.
A joint statement issued by the university and the two investigators after the four-hour meeting described it as "candid and constructive" and said it would help university officials get to the bottom of the various allegations.
The statement also said the discussions would continue in coming weeks.
Walp and Doran emphasized after the meeting, at UC's Oakland headquarters, that they were "going to continue to work with Congress, the FBI and others to correct the problems that we found."
UC's announcement came hours after the House Committee on Energy and Commerce released a letter calling for the men's reinstatement. The letter, signed by committee chairman Rep. W. J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) and other senior members, said the university's failure to reinstate the men and give them back pay "will make it very difficult for this committee to view seriously your statements that you intend to change the culture of secrecy" at Los Alamos.
A spokesman for the committee later praised UC's decision, saying that in addition to helping the two men involved, it might also encourage others with knowledge of wrongdoing at the lab to come forward.