Employee Concerns Program 2003 Annual Activity Report - PDF

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					 Employee Concerns Program
2003 Annual Activity Report




  Office of Economic Impact and
                       Diversity
   Office of Employee Concerns



             OCTOBER 2004
                                        SUMMARY
This report marks the eighth consecutive year that the Department of Energy’s Office of
Employee Concerns has prepared an Annual Report on complex-wide employee concerns
activities. These reports continue to provide an overview of the important activities and
progress made in implementing the goals of the program during the calendar year (CY)
2003.

An employee concern is a good faith expression by an employee that a policy or practice
of the Department of Energy or of one of sites contractors or subcontractor should be
improved, modified, or terminated because they are unsafe, unlawful, fraudulent, or
wasteful. Concerns can address issues such as health, safety, the environment, personnel
or management practices, fraud, waste, or reprisal for whistleblowing.

Some concerns involve the disclosure of information such as the violations of health,
safety, or environmental laws or regulations, fraud or waste of funds, or abuse of
authority. The disclosure of this type information may be protected under various Federal
and state laws, rules, and regulations. Raising protected concerns is often referred to as
“whistleblowing.” Under the whistleblowers protection laws, rules, and regulations,
employees can seek remedial action where they can show that they were subjected to
reprisal actions that would not have occurred absent their whistleblower activities.

This year marked several noteworthy changes in the Employee Concerns Program. The
decision by the National Nuclear Security Administration, an entity established by
Congress within the Department, to consolidate many of its functions in a new ‘Service
Center’ in Albuquerque resulted in the loss of the Employee Concerns Manger at the
Oakland Operations Office. In addition, other Employee Concerns Managers left the
program: a few retired while others moved into new positions. In short, this year
provided more new faces to the Employee Concerns Program than ever before.

I am pleased to report that despite these changes in personnel, the Employee Concerns
Program continued to operate efficiently with over 860 employees using the program.
These DOE employees filed 546 new concerns and, including the program’s 106 carry-
over concerns, approximately 83% of these concerns were closed.

New personnel to the program, coupled with the continued trend of ECP Managers
having collateral duties, as I noted in last year’s report, present challenges to the
Employee Concerns Program in this era of declining personnel and financial resources.
Nonetheless, I am confident that, based on the program’s success since its inception in
1996, it will continue to prosper in the future.

If there are any questions or comments you may have regarding this report,
please do not hesitate to contact me or your Employee Concerns Program contact listed in
Appendix A. I would particularly like to thank Dianne Saylor, Employee Concerns
Manager at Savannah River, Sara Rhoades, Employee Concerns Manager at the Nevada
Operations Office, Cynthia Brawner-Gaines, Headquarters Employee Concerns Manager,
and Cassie Ford, an intern from Xavier University of Louisiana, for their dedication and
expertise in producing this report. On behalf of the Employee Concerns Managers
throughout the DOE complex, let me assure our readers that we are here to serve you.




                                            William A. Lewis, Jr.
                                            Director
                                            Office of Employee Concerns
“Starting with me, I expect every manager down the line to make clear
that we expect these concerns to be taken seriously and addressed quickly
and effectively…. My expectation is that if we are able to implement a
system –a culture- where people can legitimately air concerns, then
everyone will benefit. Our workforce will be more effective…[and] the
public’s confidence in this Department will improve.”
                                   Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham
                                                                May 7, 2004
Section I. OVERVIEW

   Introduction

One of the primary missions of the Office of Employee Concerns (OEC) is to fulfill the
Secretary’s commitment to create an environment where employees are free to raise
concerns without the fear of reprisal or retaliation. The Employee Concerns Programs
(ECP) throughout the Department of Energy is structured to ensure that employee
concerns are addressed in a full, fair, and timely manner. Employees have the right and
responsibility to report concerns relating to the environment, safety, and health (ES&H),
security or management of DOE operations. Employees also have the right to receive a
timely investigation and resolution of their concerns, and protection from reprisal or
retaliation as a result of reporting their concerns.

   Employee Concerns Program Activities

In 2003, the Director of the Office of Employee Concerns addressed the Employee
Concerns Program Forum (ECPF) meetings in Indianapolis (March 2-5) and Washington
(September 15-17).

In the March meeting, the Director spoke to the attendees and gave an overview of the
Department of Energy’s Employee Concerns Program, and introduced a contingent of
DOE participants, including Phyllis Hanfling, Director of the Department’s ADR
Program, who led a training session, as well as a panel of officials from the Office of
Hearings and Appeals. In the September meeting, the Director again addressed the
conference and introduced Departmental officials from the Office of Environment, Safety
and Health.

To complement these meetings, the Director continued to hold periodic televideo
conferences as a means to share information with the ECP Managers throughout the
complex while, at the same time, avoiding the necessity of travel and increased costs.

During the year there were many changes in the ECP Managers ranks, as others replaced
experienced managers. Among those who left, after years of distinguished service to the
Employee Concerns Program, were Brenda Finley (Amarillo), Sandy Cramer (Ohio),
Richard Schassburger (Rocky Flats), Nina Salazar (Savannah River), and Greg Morgan
(Yucca Mountain-OCRWM).

As we entered 2004, the challenges of the Employee Concerns Program continued:
changing personnel; the increasing use of collateral duties for ECP managers;
reorganization shifts, particularly involving the National Nuclear Security
Administration; and a lack of adequate resources. Given these challenges, it was all the
more impressive that the resolution rate of 83% remained as high as it was, and the
program ran relatively smoothly.


   Employee Concern Program Tracking System

The Office of Employee Concerns, in collaboration with the Nevada and Savannah River
Site Employee Concerns Program Managers, continues to refine the ECP tracking system
designed to collect and consolidate annual reporting data. The Assistant Secretary of
Environment, Safety, and Health (ES&H) cited this information, now compiled for over
eight years, as extremely valuable to that office in assessing the Department’s Integrated
Safety Management process.

   Field Employee Concerns Activities

Operations and field ECPs achieved a number of successes in 2003. As indicated in
Section II of this report, Employee Concerns offices closed out 83% of the increased
annual caseload of 546 concerns filed complex-wide while, at the same time, maintaining
the improved processing times achieved over the past several years. In 2003, the
percentage of concerns subject to review that were fully or partially substantiated
dropped from the 48% recorded the previous year to 37%.

Concerns in 2003 were resolved in accordance with Departmental policy, through the
actions of the ECP local offices, often working in conjunction with appropriate DOE
program offices at the sites. The following is an example of a situation handled by field
element ECP offices:

Two DOE/ECP offices worked cooperatively to resolve a contractor whistleblower
complaint. An employee of a company contracted to design a newly proposed facility at
the Savannah River Site in Aiken, S.C. alleged that he had been terminated for making
protected disclosures to his management. Although the corporate office of the contractor
company was in North Carolina, the contractor had a field office located in Aiken, S.C.
When the terminated employee contacted the Savannah River Operations Office (SR)
ECP Manager to file a complaint through DOE, the SR ECP Manager determined that
the Contracting Officer for that contract was in the Chicago Operations Office. The SR
ECP Manager transferred the complaint to the Chicago ECP for processing.
The Chicago Operations Office made the formal notification to the contractor company,
which was initially resistant to informal resolution of the complaint. Since the former
employee and some of the company management named in the complaint were in Aiken,
S.C., the Chicago ECP Manager requested that the SR ECP Manager meet with the
contractor to provide information about the complaint process, and encourage the use of
mediation as a positive method for resolving the complaint. After the SR ECP met the
contractor’s attorney, the contractor agreed to participate in mediation. The two ECP
Offices worked closely to make arrangements for the mediation, including the necessary
paperwork for the contractor to pay for the mediation services provided by a firm in
Atlanta, Georgia. The complaint was successfully resolved in a single mediation session
and a final resolution agreement was reached. The formal agreement and the
complainant’s withdrawal of the complaint were forwarded to the Chicago ECP for
closure of the formal complaint. The two ECP Offices worked cooperatively to resolve a
complaint in a manner that was far more effective that either office could have
accomplished separately.

The changing conditions within the Department of Energy are requiring our processes to
be flexible in order to remain effective, and the Employee Concerns program is no
exception. Here, with efficient coordination between the two Employee Concerns
Managers, the case was settled quickly and to the satisfaction of both parties. This
example reflects the tenets of the Department’s employee concerns program: full, fair
and final resolution of employee concerns in order to maintain a safer and more
productive workplace.


Section II. EMPLOYEE CONCERNS PROGRAM STATISTICAL DATA

A. Receipt and Disposition: The data collected reflects concerns filed with the DOE
operations and field ECP offices for calendar year (CY) 2003. It does not contain data
relating to concerns, allegations, or complaints filed directly by employees with
appropriate offices, such as the Office of Inspector General, Office of Civil Rights, Office
of Environment, Safety and Health or through contractor employee concerns or
grievances procedures.

The DOE ECP offices began CY 2003 with a total of 106 concerns that had not been
closed out in 2002. During 2003, a total of 546 new concerns were opened; no previously
closed concern was reopened. The DOE ECP offices closed 541 concerns, leaving 111
open at the end of CY 2003. During the course of the year, the charts below show the
employee concerns activities at the major DOE field elements with respect to the
processing of employee concerns in 2003. The figures for “open” concerns refer to
concerns that were either newly opened or reopened in 2003.
                                                   Figure 1. Disposition of Concerns by Field Element
                                                                     (Larger Offices)

                         250


                         200
   Number of Concerns




                         150
                                                                                                                                                   Brought from 2002
                                                                                                                                                   Opened in 2003
                         100
                                                                                                                                                   Closed in 2003

                          50


                              0
                                    Albuquerque             Richland                 Yucca Mtn          Savannah River                Oak Ridge




All of the DOE ECP managers routinely meet with contractor ECP representatives and
coordinate efforts to resolve concerns at the lowest level possible. In addition, DOE and
contractors have instituted a variety of dispute resolution processes to resolve issues,
including training a cadre of mediators, and joint labor-management partnerships. The
successes of these programs are helping to meet one of the primary goals of the DOE
Employee Concerns Program—to improve the responsiveness of management to
concerns raised by their employees.

                                                  Figure 2. Disposition of Concerns by Field Element
                                                                   (Smaller Offices)

                         30




                         25
    Number of Concerns




                         20




                         15




                         10




                         5




                         0
                                  Idaho      Oakland            Nevada         Chicago    Rocky Flats        Golden            Ohio         SPRO

                                            Brought from 2002            Opened in 2003     Closed in 2003            Open as of 12/31/03




Sources of Concern: There are many venues by which concerns are presented to
Employee Concerns Offices. In general, the methods by which concerns are submitted to
the ECP include the following procedures: written submissions (169 concerns,
representing 32 percent), walk-ins (150; 29 percent), telephone calls directly to the ECP
(13 percent), hotlines (53; 10 percent), and Inspector General Referrals (51; 10 percent).
The remaining 6 percent were received by other DOE offices, Federal or state agencies,
or other miscellaneous sources.1

                                         Figure 3. Sources of Concerns (All Offices)



                                                   Other            Hotline
                                                    6%               10%
                                  IG Referral
                                     10%

                                                                                    Telephone          Hotline
                                                                                       13%             Telephone
                                                                                                       Written
                                                                                                       Walk-in
                                                                                                       IG Referral
                                                                                                       Other




                              Walk-in
                               29%




                                                                              Written
                                                                               32%




Written submission of concerns tended to be the choice form of submission for Ohio,
Chicago, and Oakridge, while walk-in submission seemed to be preferred in Richland,
Yucca Mountain, and Albuquerque. On the other hand, Idaho and Nevada tended to use
the hotline more frequently.




1
  Both Rocky Flats and Oakland Operations had numbers that reflected they were in the process of closing. Their case load will be
picked up by Golden and Albuquerque, respectively.
                                                            Figure 4. Sources of Concerns
                                                                   (Smaller Offices)

                              16


                              14


                              12
  Number of Concerns




                                                                                                                              Hotline
                              10
                                                                                                                              Telephone
                                                                                                                              Written
                              8                                                                                               Walk-in
                                                                                                                              IG Referral
                              6                                                                                               Other

                              4


                              2


                              0
                                   Chicago    Idaho    Oakland       Nevada      Ohio    Rocky Flats     SPRO        Golden




                                                                 Figure 5. Sources of Concerns
                                                                         (Larger Offices)


                              80


                              70


                              60
         Number of Concerns




                              50                                                                                              Hotline

                                                                                                                              Telephone
                              40
                                                                                                                              Written
                              30
                                                                                                                              Walk-in
                              20
                                                                                                                              IG
                                                                                                                              Referral
                              10


                               0

                                    Albuquerque       Richland           Yucca Mtn      Savannah River          Oak Ridge




Categories of Concern: Three categories account for 333 (63%) of the 546 new
concerns filed. These categories are defined as follows:
    • Management/Mismanagement (142) - re-engineering, policies and procedures,
       standards of conduct, reprisal and ethics.
    • Human Resources (102) - union relations, contractor relations, policies/
       procedures, standards of conduct.
    •   Safety- training, protective equipment, lockout/tagout, fire equipment, fire
        department, ambulance, fires, and Price Anderson Amendment violations.

                                 Figure 6. Categories of Concerns Received


                                         Reprisal    Security
                                           9%          4%

                                                                    Safety
                                                                     17%




                    Management
                       27%
                                                                             Health
                                                                              8%

                                                                          Environment
                                                                              1%
                                                                         WFA
                                                                         7%
                                 Quality
                                  2% EEO
                                         5%
                                                       Human Resources
                                                            20%




The largest single category of concerns occurred in the area of management with 27
percent of concerns filed in 2003, a 2% increase from 2002. Human Resources also
increased from 2002, moving from 19% to 20%. The percentage of safety concerns
remained static from 2002 at 17%. Increases occurred in the categories of reprisal and
EEO, from 2002. A noteworthy decrease in the percentage of concerns occurred in
Security, which decreased by 3% from 2002.

Closing Concerns: Concerns closed by employee concerns offices include those
processed solely by the ECP offices, as well as those closed by the ECP offices after they
had received evaluations of the concern from offices to which the concerns were referred.
A concern is considered closed by transfer when it is sent to another office or
organization that has primary responsibility for the subject matter of the concern. The
statistics shown in Figure 7 distinguish between concerns transferred within DOE and
those transferred to contractors. Although transferred concerns generally require that ECP
offices take no further action, ECP managers will request information on any follow-up
activities.
                                                                      Figure 7. Disposition of Concerns

                       500


                       450


                       400


                       350
  Number of Concerns




                       300


                       250


                       200


                       150


                       100


                        50


                         0
                              Resolved by       Transfer to        Transfer to       Transfer to       Transfer to       Other DOE        Transfer to       No Action
                                 ECP               HR                ES&H             Security            EEO            Programs         Contractor        Required




The ECP offices, as shown in Figure 7, resolved 444 concerns (approximately 82 percent
of closed concerns), while 44 concerns (8 percent) were transferred to offices within
DOE for resolution. Eighteen concerns (3 percent) were referred to contractors for
resolution, and 35 (6 percent) required no action. A total of 541 concerns were closed in
2003, representing approx. 83 percent of all concerns open during the year. Figure 8
shows the percentage of concerns closed by field element ECPs, as well as the overall
closure rate.



                                                           Figure 8. Percentage of Concerns Closed
                                                                      (by Field Element)


                          100


                             80


                             60
   Percent




                             40


                             20


                             0
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Level of Substantiation of Concerns: Since 1997, data has been collected to show the
extent to which concerns submitted were substantiated, i.e., the number of concerns that
were found to be either fully or partially verified as to the merits of the issues presented
by concerned employees. Four categories were available for reporting this data:
substantiated, partially substantiated, unsubstantiated, or no review. In 2003, the latter
category, which accounted for 34 percent of all concerns closed, primarily reflected
concerns where the nature of the concern was not subject to factual substantiation or the
concerns were outside of the jurisdiction of the Employee Concerns Programs. These
concerns were subsequently transferred to other offices and the Employee Concerns
Program did not track the outcomes.
                                                                        Figure 9. Rate of Substantiation


            90

            80

            70
            60
  Percent




            50

            40

            30
            20

            10
                                                                                                                  121
             0

                     es              e           o             d           d          da                    tn              e               r        go                  s           en      io
                                  qu          ah            lan        lan                                                dg              ve                          lat                 Oh         RO
                 ffic          er        Id             k            ch          va                     M
                                                                                                                        Ri              Ri        ica            yF
                                                                                                                                                                                ld
                                                                                                                                                                                                  SP
             ll O           qu                       Oa            Ri          Ne              c   ca               k              ah           Ch          ck               Go
            A             bu                                                                Yu                   Oa              nn                       Ro
                       Al                                                                                                      va
                                                                                                                          Sa

                                                        Substantiated                      Partially Substantiated                              Unsubstantiated




Age of Open Concerns: Data has been collected to reflect the age of concerns that
remained open at the end of the calendar year. Of the 111 concerns that remained open at
the end of 2003 throughout the DOE employee concerns complex, 53 (48 percent) had
been open less than three months, 18 (16 percent) has been open between three and six
months, and 40 (36 percent) had been open more than six months. This compares to 98
concerns that remained open at the end of CY 2002, with only 26 concerns (12 percent)
open more than six months. The emphasis to reduce the number of concerns pending over
6 months had been successful for several years, but reductions among employee concerns
staff throughout the complex have resulted in this number going up this year. In addition,
many of these concerns were referred to ECP offices by the Office of the Inspector
General and/or involved issues that, by their nature, require more time to investigate and
close.
                                                                   Figure 10. Age of Concerns


                                                                                                Less than 3 Months
                                              More than 6 Months
                                                                                                       48%
                                                     36%




                                                           3-6 Months
                                                              16%




Status of Complaints Filed Under the Department's Contractor Employee
Protection Program: The statistics in previous sections of this report do not include
whistleblower complaints filed by contractor employees with DOE pursuant to the
Department's Contractor Employee Protection Program found in Part 708 of Title 10,
Code of Federal Regulations. On April 14, 1999, the Office of Hearings and Appeals
assumed jurisdiction over Part 708 under revised regulations, published in the Federal
Register on March 15, 1999. Most of the ECP offices do, however, have responsibility
for initial processing and seeking informal resolution of the concerns as the first step of
complaint processing under the Part 708 regulation.

Eighteen “708” complaints were carried over from 2002 and twelve new complaints were
received in 2003. Nine cases were closed during 2003, leaving twenty-one complaints
open at the end of 2003, as shown in Figure 11.
                                                              Figure 11. Reprisal Complaints

                          25




                          20
   Number of Complaints




                          15




                          10




                          5




                          0
                               Carryover from 2002            Opened in 2003          Closed in 2003           Remained Open (12/31/03)
B. 1996-2003 Employee Concerns Program Trends: Since the Office of
Employee Concerns has been tracking data complex-wide for eight years, these ECP
Activity Reports review trends over a period of time, which provide insightful
information to senior management. Four areas of interest in terms of trends typically
tracked are the following: (1) number of concerns filed, (2) primary subject matter of
concerns filed, (3) timeliness of concerns processed, and (4) resolution rate.

Number of Concerns Filed: The number of new concerns opened by the ECP offices in
2001 increased from 460 to 546, 86 more than were opened in 2002. This increase comes
after a significant decrease in 2002.

                                Figure 12. Number of Concerns Received



      800


      700

      600


      500


      400


      300


      200

       100


        0
             1996      1997       1998       1999        2000        2001   2002         2003




Primary Subject Matters of Concerns: During calendar year 2003, the data reflected
noteworthy increases in safety (14 additional concerns); health (+8), Human Resources
(+22), management/mismanagement (+34), and reprisal (+18). At the same time, fewer
concerns were brought forward in the areas of workplace violence (-5), security (-7), and
waste, fraud and abuse (-2).
                                 Figure 13. Comparison of Major Concern Categories

40




35                                           35

                                                             32.9                                           33
             32.2                                                                                           32

30



                             25.9                                                             26                        26
25                           25                                                                                         25
                                                                                   24                       24
                             22.6                                                  23
                                                                                                                                   Management
                                                                                                                                   HR
20           19.9                                                                  20         20
                                                             19.4                                                       19         ES&H
             17.9                            17.8                                                                                  WFA
                                                                                              17

15                                           15.3
                                                             14.8
                                             12.9
             12.1                                            11.9                  12
                                                                                                            11
10                           9.87



                                                                                              6                         6
 5




 0
        1996              1997           1998           1999                2000          2001           2002      2003




                                       F igure 14 . C o m pa ris o n o f M a jo r C o nc e rn C a t e go rie s




     2003
     2002
     2001                                                                                                                    Management
     2000                                                                                                                    HR
     1999                                                                                                                    ES&H
     1998                                                                                                                    WFA
     1997
     1996
            0%      10%          20%      30%        40%         50%              60%   70%        80%     90%   100%

                                                        P e r c e nt of Tot a l
Timeliness of Concerns Processed (1996-2003): Prior to this year, the total number of
cases that have remained open at the end of the calendar year had declined each year for
which statistics have been collected. In 1996, the percentage of concerns that remained
open at the end of the year that was more than six months old was 32 percent. At the end
of 2001, only 12 percent had been pending for more than six months. A significant
reduction in the number of concerns "open" for six months or longer has been a goal of
the OEC, because concerns which are not promptly resolved within that time period tend
to remain in the system for long periods of time, and the associated costs, for the agency
as well as for the employee, are often very high.




                                 Figure 15. Timeliness of Concerns P rocessed


   2003



   2002



   2001



   2000

                                                                                                        Less t han 3 mos.
   1999                                                                                                 3- 6 mont hs
                                                                                                        Mor e t han 6 mos.
   1998



   1997



   1996


          0%   10%   20%   30%         40%              50%              60%   70%   80%   90%   100%

                                             P e r c e nt o f To t a l
                                                                 APPENDIX A

           Organization                Name              Telephone          Fax. No
           Headquarters
Office of Employee Concerns    William A. Lewis, Jr.   (202) 586-6530     (202) 586-
                               Director                                      4924

Office of Employee Concerns    Cynthia Brawner-        (202) 586-4579     (202) 586-
                               Gaines ECP Manager                            4924

Office of Employee Concerns    Kay F. Gunn Secretary   (202) 586-4034      (202) 586-
                                                                              4924

Office of Dispute Resolution   Phyllis Hanfling        (202) 586-6972     (202) 586-
(GC-12)                                                                      7479

                  Field
Albuquerque                    Eva Glow Brownlow        (505) 845-5113   (505) 845-3180
Amarillo                       Mark Blackburn           (806) 477-3132   (806) 477-3123
Chicago                        Kris Winiarski           (630) 252-2299   (630) 252-2919
Idaho                          Paul Allen               (208) 526-0128   (208) 526-7407
                               Kathleen Whitaker        (208) 526-1062   (208) 526-0134
Nevada                         Sara Rhoades             (702) 295-7843   (702) 295-0134
Oak Ridge                      Rufus Smith              (865) 576-4988   (865) 574-1939
Yucca Mountain (OCRWM)         Julie Goeckner           (702) 295-2694   (702) 295-2755
Ohio                           Jay A. Jalovce           (513) 246-0036   (937) 865-4728
Richland                       Stanley Branch           (509) 376-9450   (509) 372-0998
                               Colleen Meyers           (505) 373-7831   (509) 372-0998
Rocky Flats                    Dotti Whitt              (303) 966-8240   (303) 966-4763
Savannah River                 Dianne Saylor            (803) 952-8985   (803) 952-7251
SPRO                           JoAnn Rochon             (504) 734-4731   (504) 818-5731
Golden, CO                     Greg Collette            (303) 275-4734   (303) 275-4753