NETL Ex-Chief to be Arraigned Today
9 December 2013
By Anya Litvak
After more than 25 years at the National Energy Technology
Laboratory, Anthony Cugini's career there ended with a secret
investigation and a federal indictment.
According to the U.S. district attorney, Mr. Cugini asked
"witnesses to delete and redesignate computer files, and provide
false answers to investigators' questions, in order to 'protect
him' " during a Department of Energy investigation into whether he
acted improperly as NETL's director.
Mr. Cugini, who resigned from his post in October, is being
arraigned today. His attorney, Jerry Johnson, declined to comment.
According to people who were told about the investigation but
asked not to be identified, Mr. Cugini was suspected of using his
industry contacts to help a local charity, Holy Family Institute.
Sources said Mr. Cugini approached NETL contractors and talked
with them about the charity and a new school he was helping Holy
Family explore that would serve underprivileged youth.
"All he did was try to help kids who are at risk to have a better
future," said the charity's president and CEO, Sister Linda
Yankoski. That Mr. Cugini could be in legal trouble for that --
"it just hurts to think that."
Mr. Cugini, who was based at NETL's South Park campus, has been a
longtime volunteer at Holy Family, following in his family's
tradition of helping the charity. Sister Yankoski stressed that
Mr. Cugini "was not doing anything for personal gain."
"He may have gotten excited and enthusiastic about our program.
Maybe it's different if you're a government contractor," she said.
"If he made a mistake, it wasn't for anything personal. He was
trying to help an organization, to get opportunities for kids to
Phipps Conservatory was another nonprofit that came up during the
investigation the Department of Energy's inspector general
conducted into Mr. Cugini's actions.
Sources said Mr. Cugini was suspected of showing favor to Phipps
because of his friendship with its director, Richard Piacentini
and other connections.
In August, NETL and Phipps signed a memorandum of understanding to
conduct research into the effectiveness of Phipps' water treatment
systems, but the research was suspended several weeks ago,
according to Mr. Piacentini, who said the relationship between
Phipps and NETL held no financial incentives for Mr. Cugini.
"There's no money involved in this research whatsoever," Mr.
Piacentini said. "We've made the same offer to Pitt and CMU and
they are doing research here."
As for Mr. Cugini, Mr. Piacentini said: "He's been a great friend
of Phipps and I hope everything works out."
Such collaborations were a common cause for Mr. Cugini, who
brought a different management style to NETL when he took the helm
in April 2010 after 23 years at the agency. Contractors and
employees have said he was more driven to make NETL part of the
local community than his predecessors and more eager to see its
research lead to usable products. Some described it as a culture
"I think he felt a lot of people didn't know NETL existed and he
really wanted to work with and engage all the organizations in the
community," Mr. Piacentini said, "which I think is admirable."
Mr. Cugini was a driving force behind NETL's commercialization
alliance, a collaboration between Oakland-based Innovation Works,
several other startup groups and NETL researchers, to get products
to market. That, too, has been discontinued in recent weeks.
Anya Litvak: email@example.com or 412-263-1455
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