Firestone: An Insider's View

Photographers shoot over the gate at the Los Angeles home of Paris Hilton on June 7, 2007. Hours after she was sent home under house arrest for an undisclosed medical condition, the judge who put her in jail for violating her reckless-driving probation ordered her into court to decide if she should go back behind bars. Friday she appeared in Superior Court and was returned to jail to serve out a 45-day sentence. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

A CBS News investigation last March uncovered more than 20 complaints about Firestone tires failing on rescue vehicles, mostly Steeltex tires, which are under federal investigation.

Many of those tires are made at Firestone's Lavergne, Tenn. plant.

It's also where the company produces its big rig tires — the ones that go on trucks and tractor-trailers. There are no indications of consumer complaints about those tires.

But Bill Orr, who was a senior lab technician for Firestone, says the company retaliated against him when he repeatedly criticized the way the truck tires were designed and manufactured at the LaVergne plant where he worked, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.. He was on a Firestone survey team last fall that examined hundreds of used truck tires and allegedly found more problems than usual.

"An 'anomoly' is a word that we use at the factory because it's much less offensive than saying 'a factory defect'," explained Orr.

Tire Tussle:
Complete Coverage
The following are investigative stories by CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson that peer into the Firestone tire recall:
  • New Worries For Firestone
  • Call For Explorer Ban
  • Firestone In Tire Talks
  • The Casualty Count
  • Courting Firestone
  • Tire Victim: Apology Seemed Sincere
  • Holding Firestone, Ford Accountable
  • Firestone And Ford Place Blame
  • Yet Another Recall For Firestone
  • Why Are Feds So Slow With Recalls?
  • When Orr told local plant managers about his worries, he says they didn't want to hear it — something he finds ironic in light of Firestone's pledge to make things right after last August's passenger tire recall.

    "If they come to the floor, and they're made aware of the problem, they're responsible for it. As long as they don't know about it, if they're called to court to testify, they don't know anthing," said Orr.

    In November, Orr went over his bosses' heads and alerted visiting Bridgestone/Firestone corporate engineers to several problems he identified. He says they took photos and seemed concerned. Orr doesn't know what steps they may have taken. But when they left, he began feeling the heat.

    Two months later, after 25 years at Firestone, Orr was fired — he feels in retaliation for speaking up.

    Do You Have Information
    If you have any information relevant to this story, you can send it to Sharyl Attkisson's office at:
    sac@cbsnews.com
    "Officially? I was fired for misappropriation of funds," said Orr.

    Firestone accused Orr of pocketing $7,000 from a tire vendor that should have gone to the company, and denied him unemployment benefits.

    But Orr appealed and won his case when the Tennessee Department of Labor ruled Firestone's allegations against him "were not substantiated."

    Firestone's Statement
    Click here to read Firestone's statement on Bill Orr's claims.
    As for Orr's claims, Firestone says when he raised questions to corporate engineers, "the tire was taken out of production and examined." Firestone claims those qualified to analyze the data "found the tires in the survey performed properly."

    Orr, once proud to be a Firestone employee, agrees Firestone makes many quality tires but can't get over how he was treated when he tried to alert the company to his concerns. He's now made it his mission to investigate Firestone's truck tires on his own.


    "The company's going tell you 'Bill Orr is a disgruntled employee' — I think it means emotionally upset. Well yeah, I am emotionally upset 3 so I am a disgruntled and embarrassed employee," said Orr.

    Firestone did call Orr disgruntled and a day after CBS News asked the company to respond to his allegations, filed a civil suit against him over that $7,000 they claim he took.



    ©MMI, Viacom Internet Services Inc., All Rights Reserved
    • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

    Comments

    CBSN Live

    pop-out
    Live Video

    Follow Us

    Watch CBSN Live

    Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

    On Twitter