Friday, October 29, 2010

Massey officials refuse to testify in mine disaster investigation

Massey Energy's top safety official and at least five other company officials have refused to answers question from government investigators examining the April explosion that killed 29 West Virginia miners. Elizabeth Chamberlin, Massey's vice president for safety, and the other five officials invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and will not appear for interviews with state and federal investigators, according to documents obtained under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act, Ken Ward Jr. of The Charleston Gazette reports.

Other Massey officials declining to testify include Jamie Ferguson, vice president of Massey subsidiary Performance Coal; Wayne Persinger, a general manager at Upper Big Branch; Rick Nicolau, a maintenance chief at the mine; and mine foremen Rick Foster and Gary May. "Lawyers for all six officials said in letters to the state that their clients have done nothing wrong, but do not believe the investigation interviews are being conducted properly," Ward writes. A deal with West Virginia Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin allowed the officials to decline interviews by letter instead of being compelled by subpoena and invoking their Fifth Amendment rights in person.

"An interview schedule obtained by the Gazette indicates that at least five additional Massey officials have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights, but so far state regulators have refused to release the letters in which they formally confirmed that decision," Ward writes. Chamberlin's letter alleges the Mine Safety and Health Administration is using its investigation to "divert attention and blame from itself and onto others" and charges that members of Manchin's independent team have "bullied and abused" some witnesses. (Read more)

No comments: