-- The tables have turned for two Los Alamos National Laboratory investigators who were given 30 minutes to pack up and leave their jobs in November under armed guard.
The University of California, which has managed the lab for 60 years, hired Glenn Walp and Steven Doran as advisers this month to fill officials in on problems they uncovered at the lab.
For the first time, university officials are hearing Walp and Doran's tales of internal business turmoil and allegations of coverup, the pair said during an interview last week.
Walp and Doran say they expect more information to emerge on problems at one of the nation's premier nuclear weapons design centers as various probes continue.
The two were originally hired by the lab to investigate the handling of government property but were dismissed in November after they reported on the alleged misuse of lab credit cards and on $2.7 million in missing computers and equipment.
Lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold said he couldn't say why Walp and Doran were fired. But he said the lab did not need a reason because both were still in their probationary phase of employment.
Five top lab managers have been toppled since the pair's firing, including then-Director John Browne, who resigned and was replaced this month by retired Navy Vice Adm. Pete Nanos.
On Jan. 17, the university hired Walp and Doran -- with back pay to November -- to aid UC President Richard Atkinson in investigating the lab's problems.
Nanos has said the lab wants to work with the investigators. "If they have information we need, get it," he said. The FBI, Energy Department and Congress are also investigating the lab.
Almost immediately after Walp was hired by Los Alamos a year ago, the former Pennsylvania State Police commissioner began getting tips about possible theft. He started collecting inventory reports and interviewing employees.
By March, he had detailed $2.7 million worth of equipment lost or stolen from 1999 through 2001, including 263 computers. Lab and university officials are now conducting their own inventory audits and will not comment until their reviews are done.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said an inventory for fiscal 1999 through 2002 turned up 414 missing computers, most of them outdated and none containing classified information.
More than theft or fraud, Walp said, lab managers feared bad publicity would endanger the university's management contract -- and their jobs.
Doran joined the lab in July. His first assignment targeted two workers suspected of buying $50,000 of camping gear and other merchandise with lab purchase orders.
Lab rules require property valued at more than $5,000 or judged an attractive theft target to be bar-coded and inventoried. But Doran -- a former police chief and corporate consultant on white-collar crime -- said pieces of equipment worth less than $5,000 were rarely tracked, and managers often didn't pay much attention to lesser purchases.
Walp said lab officials continued to keep information from investigators. They didn't immediately alert him when the Bank of America reported to procurement staff that a woman tried to charge a souped-up Ford Mustang on her lab purchase card.
As investigations mounted, so did resistance from upper managers, Walp and Doran said.
Walp said he and Doran were later fired because they spoke with outside investigators, an assertion the lab has denied. "There is no doubt in our minds that it was in retaliation for talking," Walp said.