Wackenhut Chief Exits as Reactor Guards Caught Asleep (Update5)

By Tina Seeley

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Wackenhut Corp. Chief Executive Officer Gary Sanders left a month after the security company lost contracts from Exelon Corp. because guards fell asleep on the job at a nuclear power plant.

Sanders, 55, will be replaced by G4S Plc Chief Operating Officer Grahame Gibson, Wackenhut said in a statement today. Gibson will continue to serve as operating chief and a board member of UK-based G4S, parent company of Wackenhut.

Exelon, owner of the largest fleet of U.S. commercial reactors, said last month it was terminating all nuclear-plant security contracts with Wackenhut after guards at its Peach Bottom reactor in Pennsylvania were videotaped asleep while on duty. The videotapes were made public in September.

``They had so many other problems,'' David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said about Wackenhut. ``It's no single disaster that caused this resignation, it's the potpourri of disasters.''

The sleeping guards incident drew criticism from members of Congress, including Michigan Democratic Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The legislators said this week they will ``conduct a comprehensive review'' of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's operations because of the sleeping guards and other agency issues.

``This change in leadership had nothing to do with the Exelon situation at all,'' Wackenhut spokesman Marc Shapiro said in a telephone interview. Gibson, 54, was tapped to help the company with a new business strategy, announced in November, he said.


Including the Exelon contracts, which will be phased out by the middle of this year, Wackenhut provides security service at 31 of the 65 U.S. nuclear power-plant sites. About half of the plants have their own in-house security services, said Lochbaum.

``Mr. Sanders' resignation does not resolve the outstanding issues of how Wackenhut handled security concerns at Peach Bottom or Wackenhut's performance at other facilities,'' Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. ``I will continue to scrutinize Wackenhut's handling of the Peach Bottom incident as well as the larger issue of security at all nuclear power plants.''

Sanders left the company two days ago. ``It was a mutual decision, to the best of my knowledge,'' Wackenhut's Shapiro said.

Exelon faces ``a good likelihood they will also get a fine for what happened at Peach Bottom,'' Lochbaum said in a telephone interview.

G4S fell 5.25 pence, or 2.4 percent, to close at 214.75 pence on the London Stock Exchange. Exelon dropped $1.33, or 1.5 percent, to $85.19 in composite trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tina Seeley in Washington at tseeley@bloomberg.net .
Last Updated: January 10, 2008 16:28 EST

Source: Bloomberg.com