Metro Water Tucson Pump Efficiency Test

Metro Water District Tucson 6265 N. La Canada Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85704 De Concini Site May 2012 Photo Evidence Disclosure - "site of failed pump efficiency test incident"
Metro Water District Tucson
6265 N. La Canada Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85704
De Concini Site May 2012
Photo Evidence Disclosure –
“site of failed pump efficiency
test incident”
Metro Water District Tucson 6265 N. La Canada Blvd. Tucson, AZ 85704 De Concini Site May 2012 Photo Evidence Disclosure - "failed flushing hose from test incident"
Metro Water District Tucson
6265 N. La Canada Blvd.
Tucson, AZ 85704
De Concini Site May 2012
Photo Evidence Disclosure –
“failed flushing hose from test incident”

On May 10, 2012, a Metro Water District supervisor directed deviation from the standard pump test procedure resulting in this flushing hose being overpressurized to the point of structural failure.

Calculations performed by Metro Water District supervisor and operator prior to this pump test revealed an anticipated “dead-head” pressure of 138 psi. The 6″ blue flushing hose used in this test is clearly rated for only 50 psi as depicted in photo.

Metro Water District onsite supervisors instructed a distribution operator not to install the testing pressure gauge at the threaded port on the steel piping, and not to use the wheel operated throttle valve near the threaded port.   A “pump-off” trailer of the Metro Water District’s Deputy General Manager’s design was instead coupled inline and downstream of the standard test gauge and valve throttle point.   The throttling of the hydraulic load at at the downstream “pump-off” trailer location resulted in overpressurization to the point of failure of the upstream flushing hose.  The flushing hose could not withstand the hydraulic pressure load imposed, and ruptured, exposing operators nearby and the electrician working in the electrical apparatus under electrical load to being soaked by the semi-conductive spray from the rupture.  District equipment was damaged and workers at the scene were exposed to possible electrocution and arc blast. Neither of the two Metro Water District supervisors directing the incident on May 10th 2012 notified Metro Water District’s Risk Management of the incident.

Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District of Pima County in Tucson, AZ was cited by Arizona Department of Safety and Health (ADOSH) following one state investigation where it was determined that Metro Water District had not followed its own procedure regarding post-incident investigation.

Apparently the incident was no accident, with management un-remorseful and willing to continue the unlawful retaliation AND with Metro Water board complicity, next stop:

Metro-Water Unlawful-Retaliation Raises-Rates.

 

www.metrowatertucson.com and www.yourmetrowatertucsonboard.com

 

Metro Water Murky Matters – Metro Water District -TucsonWeekly

 
” Metro Water Murky Matters ” – Metro Water District – Metro-Water-Tucson-Weekly Metro-Water-Murky-Matters – TucsonWeekly Article about Metro Water District Tucson – www.metrowatertucson.com. . . After nearly being electrocuted, a Metro Water employee is fired—and the risk-management specialist resigns in protest. www.metrowater

Metro Water Murky Matters 

As a fired electrician fights to get his job back, Metro Water increases its rates

By Albert Vetere Lannon

November 29, 2012

  • Albert Vetere Lannon
  • Metro Water electrician Donovan Hemway asks for protection at the Aug. 13 Metro Water board of directors meeting.

Metro Water TucsonWhen Metro Water District managers fired electrician Donovan Hemway after he was nearly electrocuted, they stirred up already murky waters—and several government investigations of Metro Water are under way, as Hemway fights to get his job back.

Speaking to the board of the water district—which serves about 50,000 people in the northwest, northeast and southwest areas of metro Tucson, according to its website—Hemway said on Aug. 13 that he was nearly electrocuted on May 10, when he became drenched while working in a live, 480-volt cabinet at Metro’s DeConcini well site. Hemway had worked for Metro for almost six years. (See “Sparks Flying,” Currents, Sept. 20.)

“I was nearly killed,” Hemway told the board then. Hemway had been ordered to do a pump-efficiency test. Now, Hemway is insistent about getting his job back.

Jessie Atencio, assistant director of the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, wouldn’t comment about the division’s investigation.

Hemway said he has received confirmation that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has begun a separate investigation of his termination, which occurred while he was on family and medical leave. The electrician’s charge of employment discrimination is pending at the state Attorney General’s Office, and an interview has been scheduled, he said.

Hemway’s first victory came when Metro Water, on the eve of a formal hearing, decided not to fight his workers’ compensation claim. The Industrial Commission of Arizona sent Hemway a letter notifying him that the Employers Compensation Insurance Co. had accepted his claim for compensation over job-caused medical issues.

Hemway sent the ICA a letter on Nov. 15 relaying reports from employees that a Metro Water supervisor was intimidating workers. Hemway charged that the supervisor told several people, including witnesses to the May 10 incident, that “if Mr. Hemway sues, there will be layoffs.”

The supervisor also reportedly made light of a 6-inch hose rupture as “just a pinhole leak,” despite company video showing Hemway drenched while near a live electrical connection. Hemway’s letter argued this showed “a pattern of unlawful disregard in a hostile work environment” that could lead to “stress claims and even a fatality.”

The company received the letter at 11:33 a.m. on Nov. 16, according to a delivery-confirmation service. Hemway claims that at 1:28 p.m. that day, he observed the supervisor in question driving slowly down his street.

While Hemway sees his battle with the company as David versus Goliath, the fallout may be affecting Metro Water in other ways. At a public hearing Oct. 22 on proposed rate increases, Metro customer David Tanner, a former company supervisor, asked a series of questions about Metro’s practices. According to the meeting minutes (posted on the Metro website, www.metrowater.com), one of the questions involved how much Metro was paying attorneys “to fight employees who complained about wage and hour law and job-safety violations.”

General manager Mark Stratton said the amount was not yet known. Board chairman Bryan Foulk denied any company wrongdoing, saying nothing was “being swept under the carpet.”

Another question from Tanner: “Is the rate increase needed so managers can continue to attend conferences at Whiskey Pete’s in Buffalo Bill’s Resort and Casino near Las Vegas?”

Stratton responded that the only manager who attended a conference there was deputy general manager Chris Hill. Hill was the person who initiated the change in a pump-testing procedure that almost killed Hemway when a hose ruptured, Hemway said. According to the conference prospectus, Hill was to teach a Sept. 25 class on “Reducing Risks and Costs.”

Tanner also asked about Foulk’s comments at a previous board meeting that debt service was “strangling the district.” Seventy-five percent of Metro’s annual income, $6.6 million, reportedly goes to debt service. Foulk said he was misquoted. His statement, however, remains in Metro Water’s approved board minutes from Aug. 13.

Another Metro customer, Annette Cline, sent an email to the board opposing the rate increase, adding, “I don’t really get the impression that my opinion as a longtime Metro customer really matters to the board of directors, anyway.” The Southern Arizona Home Builders Association wrote the board that any increase in connection fees “will adversely affect our builder members.”

The board dropped the proposed water-connection fee increase, but voted unanimously to raise the base rate by $2.50 a month; to increase water consumption charges by 4 percent; and to establish to a new water-resource-utilization fee of 10 cents per thousand gallons.

Metro Water customer Donovan Hemway, unemployed since his discharge from the company, will have to pay the new rates while he continues his battle to get his job back.

Read the previous article: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/murky-matters/Content?oid=3587689

Metro Water Murky Matters – www.metrowatertucson.com

 

 

Whistleblower Retaliation Could Land You in Trouble

You must always avoid any retaliation against whistleblowers when they come forward with complaints.

whistleblower-retaliationThere are both state and federal laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, that protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their companies and employers. If you or your company engages in retaliation against a whistleblower that complains of fraud, illegal activities or other wrongful dealings in the workplace, you are risking a lawsuit brought by the worker. In addition, you could face criminal prosecution if the circumstances are correct.

Whistleblower Defined

A whistleblower is an employee who makes complaints about a company’s misconduct, such as complaints about health and safety code violations, shareholder fraud, financial mismanagement or other illegal activities. In addition to the employees that make the initial complaints, employees that later follow up with the complaints or give information to investigators are also considered whistleblowers. There are many laws, at both the federal and state levels, that protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

After some of the most heinous financial frauds and corporate mismanagements ever seen (the Enron fiasco, for example), the United States government passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to force companies to act according to the law. The primary thrust of this Act is to prevent shareholder fraud and other financial wrongdoings of publicly traded companies. However, there are clauses within the Act that also create strong protections for whistleblowers.

By the terms of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, if an employee makes complaints about his or her employer breaking, or not following, certain federal laws relating to securities, shareholder fraud, or other types of fraud (wire, mail, or bank), that employee is protected against retaliation by his or her employer. Even if it turns out that the employee’s complaints do not turn up any fraud or other wrongdoing, the employee is still protected as a whistleblower. As long as the employee had a good faith intention when he or she made the complaints, they are protected from retaliation.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the employee does not have to complain to a federal or state agency to receive the protection provided by the Act. Indeed, even if an employee makes a complaint to a superior within the company, he or she is still considered a whistleblower and will receive the protections accordingly.
As an employer, it is imperative that you comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. Under the law, if you, as the employer, take an act that is intended to retaliate against a whistleblower, you could face fines. In addition, you could face time in prison – as much as 10 years.

 

Other Federal Laws that Protect Whistleblowers

In addition to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, there are a number of other federal laws that protect whistleblowers in the workplace. As an example, employees that complain about discrimination or harassment in the workplace are protected against retaliation by their employers. There are other federal laws that also protect employees that complain about violations of health or safety codes, violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act, or about their employers breaking wage and hour laws.

Although many of these laws do not refer to “whistleblowers,” the concepts are the same — namely that you cannot retaliate against employees that make complaints about your company. Employees cannot be fired or subjected to other retaliatory measures because they made complaints, whether inside or outside of the company.
Lastly, there are a number of federal laws that protect workers that complain of wrongdoing within specific industries. For example, there are laws that protect workers that are employed by companies that do work for the federal government, or those that are employed by companies that deal with hazardous materials.

 

State Laws that Protect Whistleblowers

A large number of states have their own whistleblower laws that add to and compliment the federal whistleblower laws that are already in place. For example, many states have laws that protect whistleblowers that complain of violations of state laws regarding family and medical leave, mandatory time off for jury duty and voting, state antidiscrimination laws and state wage and hour laws.

In addition to the examples above, many states also allow employees to bring lawsuits when they believe that they were disciplined or terminated “in violation of public policy.” Generally speaking, many of these claims are brought by former employees that believe they were fired for reasons such as exercising a legal right or complaining of their company’s illegal activities. You should look up your state’s laws on this matter as they vary widely from one state to another.

There are some states that only allow an employee to bring a “violation of public policy” lawsuit if they complained to a government agent or agency. Other states allow employees to bring such lawsuits for internal complaints. Some states allow employees to bring lawsuits only when the law that the company allegedly violated contains explicit anti-retaliation clauses, and others do not have such a requirement. Still other states do not allow “public policy” claims at all.

 

How to Avoid Whistleblower Claims

In addition to being damaging to a company’s bank account, whistleblower lawsuits can also be very damaging to a company’s reputation and goodwill. Because of this, it is always a good idea to do your best to avoid whistleblower claims. Here are a few steps that you can take to reduce the risk that your company will be subject to such a lawsuit:

  • Don’t retaliate — This first step seems pretty simple, yet it can be very hard to put into practice. You should always try to remember not to treat employees that have complained about your company any differently than those who have not. Many times company owners do not want to believe that their companies are engaging in illegal activity, which makes retaliation seem very desirable. However, taking out your frustrations on the employee that caused you the problem will not do anything to lessen the problems that your company is facing — in fact, it could only deepen them. Try to see the complaint as an opportunity to get your business back on a lawful track instead of a thorn in your side.
  • Have a complaint policy in place and be sure to use it — A few laws, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, make it so that certain publicly traded companies must have specific complaint handling policies in place. However, it is a good idea to have a complaint policy in place even if it is not required by law. Once you have your policy in place, make sure to train and educate your employees in using the system. You should always make it clear that an employee who comes forward will not suffer retaliation. Lastly, once you have your complaint policy in place, be sure to abide by it. 
  • Investigate all credible complaints — If you receive an internal complaint about alleged wrongdoing, be sure to investigate it, so long as it is credible. If you find that the complaint was truthful, take the steps needed to remedy the situation. Keep in mind that if you make it a habit of not investigating complaints, your employees may decide to go to the government before notifying you. This could land your company in serious trouble.
  • Be careful in disciplining whistleblowers for other misconduct — If you have a whistleblower in your company that needs to be disciplined for other conduct (for example, an employee that complained about safety code violations, but that is also sexually harassing his secretary), you must be very careful in your discipline. If you are concerned that the employee may turn around and sue you, you should think about contacting a lawyer before engaging in any discipline. Get evidence to support your claim that you are disciplining for reasons other than the whistle blowing and make sure the employee knows the reason he or she is being disciplined.

– See more at: http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/employment-law-and-human-resources/whistleblower-retaliation-could-land-you-in-trouble.html#sthash.PCHg7ASh.dpuf

Metro Water District of Tucson has Sparks Flying

Metro Water . . . After nearly being electrocuted, a Metro Water employee is fired—and the risk-management specialist resigns in protest

Metro Water TucsonMetro Water District of Tucson has Sparks Flying as Electrician Donovan Hemway last month asked the board of directors of the Metro Water District for whistle-blower status to protect his job—and to investigate his near-electrocution.

He was fired the next day.

Metro’s risk-management specialist, Janet Gallup, then resigned in protest. A state investigation is now under way.

Speaking to the board of the water district—which serves about 50,000 people in the northwest, northeast and southwest areas of metro Tucson, according to its website—Hemway on Aug. 13 said he was nearly electrocuted on May 10, when he became drenched while working in a live, 480-volt cabinet at Metro’s DeConcini well site. A single father, Hemway had worked for Metro Water for almost six years.

“I was nearly killed,” Hemway told the board. “I have concern for the safety of my co-workers as well as my own.”

Hemway had been ordered to do a pump-efficiency test by deputy manager Chris Hill, and he believes that Hill’s change in normal test procedure is what triggered the incident.

This was not the deputy manager’s first possible misadventure. In an incident last year, Gallup said, she asked general manager Mark Stratton to discipline Hill for ordering employees to work in a trench that had not been shored up, a violation of safety rules.

Stratton responded that Gallup “was a cancer at Metro Water.”

Gallup, who was also Metro’s chief safety officer, said she was reprimanded for reporting to the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or ADOSH, that a contractor was forcing employees to work in unprotected trenches.

Hill was named Metro Water safety officer following Gallup’s resignation. The apparently close relationship between Stratton and Hill may stem from their eight-year business partnership in a private company, Agua Southwest LLC.

An ADOSH investigation of Hemway’s near-electrocution is under way. ADOSH’s Tucson office told the Tucson Weekly that it could not comment while an investigation is in progress.

Hemway claimed that supervisors on the scene failed to report the accident to the company’s risk-management officer. Gallup confirmed that and said that Hemway’s firing was “a major blow” to Metro Water after he “did so much to improve their electrical system.”

Insomnia has plagued Hemway since the near-electrocution and helped lead to threats of discipline for absenteeism, even as Metro’s employee-assistance program was reportedly recommending medical leave for him. Hemway had received only one disciplinary warning letter prior to the accident, but after it occurred, he received four more.

Stratton issued a written rebuttal to Hemway’s charges on Sept. 7, available online atwww.metrowater.com, for the Sept. 10 board meeting. Denying any violation of safety procedures, Stratton said Metro Water had acted “in an appropriate manner,” including requiring employee sign-off of a “hazard awareness form.”

Stratton wrote that a hose rupture involved with the accident occurred because a 200 PSI (pounds per square inch) hose had been replaced with a 50 PSI hose. How that happened is not explained. He also said that “corrective action” has been taken to avoid similar incidents, and that this change “eliminated the need to follow up.”

Stratton and Hill did not return the Weekly’s phone calls.

Metro Water‘s security and safety procedures involve the use of video cameras, and the entire incident was recorded. The original video, however, was lost, according to Stratton, and a second download came up four minutes short. Stratton said that the shortened version begins just before the hose rupture and shows Hemway wet.

The letter of termination from Stratton, received the day after the Aug. 13 board meeting, charged Hemway with “blatant disregard of policies” and “excessive absenteeism.” In his report to the board, Stratton added a charge of “continued insubordination.”

Gallup told the Weekly that Hemway “certainly has a valid stress claim” and that Metro Water was “trying to sweep it under the rug.”

Metro Water faces a $1.2 million deficit that board Chairman Bryan Foulk said is “strangling the district.”

Stratton’s response claims that management has been “professional” and that Hemway has no “substantive proof of any wrong-doing,” so no board action is required.

Gallup, who said she’d finally “had it” with Metro Water after six years, added: “When management isn’t following the rules, there is a big problem. I believe Metro Water has a duty to provide honesty, integrity and safety to its ratepayers and employees.”

Dave Devine contributed to this article,

Metro Water District of Tucson has Sparks Flying

http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tucson/sparks-flying/Content?oid=3531049

http://www.metrowatertucson.com/Metrowatertucson/metro-water-district-of-tucson/

METRO-WATER-DISTRICT-OF-TUCSON

 

www.metrowatertucson.com and www.yourmetrowatertucsonboard.com