Bernick puts Locke under fire
Prosecuting attorney Kris McLean finished his direct examination of Robert Locke Wednesday morning, and made way for defense attorney David M. Bernick, whose demonstrative charts, colorful necktie and cheerful greetings added life to the quiet courtroom Wednesday afternoon.
McLean questioned Locke, a construction manager for W.R. Grace for more than 20 years, about the possible sale of the Libby mine to 3M in the late 1970s. Locke said that a condition of the proposed sale included the transfer of environmental liabilities from Grace to 3M, and each company hoped the other would assume those liabilities. When 3M rejected Grace’s price of the Libby mine and didn’t present a counteroffer, Grace became more concerned with the risks the company faced by continuing operations in Libby.
“Getting out of Libby was a recurring subject,” Locke said. “I had real bad vibes about the site from a liability standpoint.”
McLean then addressed Locke’s severance from Grace in 1998. “It wasn’t a very favorable situation, was it?” asked McLean.
“No, not for me it wasn’t,” Locke said.
McLean focused on a release and separation contract between Locke and Grace. In this agreement, Locke was prohibited from discussing his work for Grace. If Locke did talk about what he did for Grace, the contract said that Locke would have to repay all money paid to him by Grace and forfeit any future payments from the company.
“I didn’t want to sign it,” Locke said. “I didn’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole.”
Locke’s severance from Grace was also the focus of Bernick’s cross-examination. When Locke left Grace, he took with him certain company documents, which Bernick suggested Locke was not authorized to do. Is it true that no one you directly worked with or was familiar with your work told you that you could take those documents, he asked Locke.
Locke speculated that no one he worked with gave him the permission.
“You don’t have to speculate,” Bernick said. “Just tell me whether or not it’s true.”
Locke said it was true, but that he had a hard time remembering who told him what. Bernick was not impressed with Locke’s patchy memory.
“We’ve spent two days of testimony refreshing your memory, Mr. Locke,” Bernick said. “Please try to remember.”
Locke interjected that he was trying to remember. Bernick said try harder, and the two began talking at the same time, which prompted Judge Molloy to silence them both.
“You must both respect the other’s question and answers,” Molloy said. “Both of you please adhere to the rules.”
Bernick was also interested in Locke’s wrongful severance suit against Grace, which has not been decided. Locke said he brought the suit against Grace because “it was time to stand up and do the right thing.”
Locke met with certain Grace lawyers in 1998 and 1999, trying to settle the case out of court. “I just wanted the whole darn thing to go away,” Locke said.
Bernick wanted to know which lawyers were at these meetings and where and when the meetings took place. Locke said he didn’t exactly remember and didn’t have his calendars from those years, which Bernick found odd.
“You kept all the calendars that go way, way back,” Bernick said. “But you didn’t keep the most recent, did you?”
Locke said that he when disposed of those calendars he was “just cleaning up.” But Bernick called those calendars evidence and said that Locke had destroyed evidence. Bernick also pointed out that Locke is involved in two lawsuits in which Grace is the defendant.
– Will Grant (posted 2:05 p.m.)