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GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

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DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers in the first disciplinary action stemming from its mishandled recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem. But the company also said a second ignition part in the cars must be fixed, boosting first-quarter recall costs above $1 billion.

The suspensions, with pay, come from GM’s own investigation into the recall. CEO Mary Barra promised Congress last week that she’d take action when appropriate, as lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem.

In a statement Thursday, Barra called the action an “interim step.” Management and legal experts said paid leave is likely the first step in a process that could lead to firing or early retirement. But it also means that GM probably doesn’t know yet if the engineers acted on their own or followed orders from a superior.

GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

The company would not identify the suspended employees, but in congressional hearings last week, lawmakers produced memos singling out ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio. Attempts to reach DeGiorgio were unsuccessful.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. On Thursday, it announced that dealers would also replace the ignition lock cylinders on the same cars because drivers can remove the key while the engine is still running. That could lead to a rollaway or crash. GM said it knows of one related injury.

In the past two months, GM has announced recalls covering a total of 6.3 million vehicles for a number of issues. The estimated cost has now grown to $1.3 billion from $300 million initially.

In addition to Congress, the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the ignition problem.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., last week accused DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not fix the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

During the hearing, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

Experts say the paid suspensions likely follow GM’s process for getting rid of employees while protecting the company from unknowns that may come out in GM’s internal investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

“They have to be careful at this point not to over-react, despite all the pressure that’s being put on them certainly by Congress, public pressure,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. “I’ve got to believe they have an HR (human resources) binder that would sink a battleship. Step one is usually paid leave,” he said.

But others said there’s public relations value in taking action against employees. “They need to have a charm offensive, right?” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School who specializes in product liability. “Anything they can do to make themselves look like they’re more vigorous or rigorous on safety.”

Henning said any criminal charges are a long way off. In large organizations like GM, groups make decisions rather than individuals, as problems are bumped up the organizational chart, he said.

“It’s hard to be able to say `this is the person who made this decision,’ and him or her alone,” Henning said.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” said Barra, who has promised a transformation to a safety-first corporate culture.

The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

The latest issue with the ignition switches comes as GM fights a motion in a Texas federal court that would force it to tell the cars’ owners to stop driving them until they are repaired. GM says the cars are safe as long as objects are removed from the key chain. Plaintiffs claim that fix is insufficient. A judge is expected to rule this week.

Shares of GM closed Thursday down 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, at $33.30.

—-

Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers in the first disciplinary action stemming from its mishandled recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem. But the company also said a second ignition part in the cars must be fixed, boosting first-quarter recall costs above $1 billion.

The suspensions, with pay, come from GM’s own investigation into the recall. CEO Mary Barra promised Congress last week that she’d take action when appropriate, as lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem.

In a statement Thursday, Barra called the action an “interim step.” Management and legal experts said paid leave is likely the first step in a process that could lead to firing or early retirement. But it also means that GM probably doesn’t know yet if the engineers acted on their own or followed orders from a superior.

GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

The company would not identify the suspended employees, but in congressional hearings last week, lawmakers produced memos singling out ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio. Attempts to reach DeGiorgio were unsuccessful.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. On Thursday, it announced that dealers would also replace the ignition lock cylinders on the same cars because drivers can remove the key while the engine is still running. That could lead to a rollaway or crash. GM said it knows of one related injury.

In the past two months, GM has announced recalls covering a total of 6.3 million vehicles for a number of issues. The estimated cost has now grown to $1.3 billion from $300 million initially.

In addition to Congress, the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the ignition problem.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., last week accused DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not fix the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

During the hearing, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

Experts say the paid suspensions likely follow GM’s process for getting rid of employees while protecting the company from unknowns that may come out in GM’s internal investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

“They have to be careful at this point not to over-react, despite all the pressure that’s being put on them certainly by Congress, public pressure,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. “I’ve got to believe they have an HR (human resources) binder that would sink a battleship. Step one is usually paid leave,” he said.

But others said there’s public relations value in taking action against employees. “They need to have a charm offensive, right?” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School who specializes in product liability. “Anything they can do to make themselves look like they’re more vigorous or rigorous on safety.”

Henning said any criminal charges are a long way off. In large organizations like GM, groups make decisions rather than individuals, as problems are bumped up the organizational chart, he said.

“It’s hard to be able to say `this is the person who made this decision,’ and him or her alone,” Henning said.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” said Barra, who has promised a transformation to a safety-first corporate culture.

The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

The latest issue with the ignition switches comes as GM fights a motion in a Texas federal court that would force it to tell the cars’ owners to stop driving them until they are repaired. GM says the cars are safe as long as objects are removed from the key chain. Plaintiffs claim that fix is insufficient. A judge is expected to rule this week.

Shares of GM closed Thursday down 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, at $33.30.

—-

Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers in the first disciplinary action stemming from its mishandled recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem. But the company also said a second ignition part in the cars must be fixed, boosting first-quarter recall costs above $1 billion.

The suspensions, with pay, come from GM’s own investigation into the recall. CEO Mary Barra promised Congress last week that she’d take action when appropriate, as lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem.

In a statement Thursday, Barra called the action an “interim step.” Management and legal experts said paid leave is likely the first step in a process that could lead to firing or early retirement. But it also means that GM probably doesn’t know yet if the engineers acted on their own or followed orders from a superior.

GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

The company would not identify the suspended employees, but in congressional hearings last week, lawmakers produced memos singling out ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio. Attempts to reach DeGiorgio were unsuccessful.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. On Thursday, it announced that dealers would also replace the ignition lock cylinders on the same cars because drivers can remove the key while the engine is still running. That could lead to a rollaway or crash. GM said it knows of one related injury.

In the past two months, GM has announced recalls covering a total of 6.3 million vehicles for a number of issues. The estimated cost has now grown to $1.3 billion from $300 million initially.

In addition to Congress, the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the ignition problem.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., last week accused DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not fix the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

During the hearing, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

Experts say the paid suspensions likely follow GM’s process for getting rid of employees while protecting the company from unknowns that may come out in GM’s internal investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

“They have to be careful at this point not to over-react, despite all the pressure that’s being put on them certainly by Congress, public pressure,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. “I’ve got to believe they have an HR (human resources) binder that would sink a battleship. Step one is usually paid leave,” he said.

But others said there’s public relations value in taking action against employees. “They need to have a charm offensive, right?” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School who specializes in product liability. “Anything they can do to make themselves look like they’re more vigorous or rigorous on safety.”

Henning said any criminal charges are a long way off. In large organizations like GM, groups make decisions rather than individuals, as problems are bumped up the organizational chart, he said.

“It’s hard to be able to say `this is the person who made this decision,’ and him or her alone,” Henning said.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” said Barra, who has promised a transformation to a safety-first corporate culture.

The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

The latest issue with the ignition switches comes as GM fights a motion in a Texas federal court that would force it to tell the cars’ owners to stop driving them until they are repaired. GM says the cars are safe as long as objects are removed from the key chain. Plaintiffs claim that fix is insufficient. A judge is expected to rule this week.

Shares of GM closed Thursday down 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, at $33.30.

—-

Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers in the first disciplinary action stemming from its mishandled recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem. But the company also said a second ignition part in the cars must be fixed, boosting first-quarter recall costs above $1 billion.

The suspensions, with pay, come from GM’s own investigation into the recall. CEO Mary Barra promised Congress last week that she’d take action when appropriate, as lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem.

In a statement Thursday, Barra called the action an “interim step.” Management and legal experts said paid leave is likely the first step in a process that could lead to firing or early retirement. But it also means that GM probably doesn’t know yet if the engineers acted on their own or followed orders from a superior.

GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

The company would not identify the suspended employees, but in congressional hearings last week, lawmakers produced memos singling out ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio. Attempts to reach DeGiorgio were unsuccessful.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. On Thursday, it announced that dealers would also replace the ignition lock cylinders on the same cars because drivers can remove the key while the engine is still running. That could lead to a rollaway or crash. GM said it knows of one related injury.

In the past two months, GM has announced recalls covering a total of 6.3 million vehicles for a number of issues. The estimated cost has now grown to $1.3 billion from $300 million initially.

In addition to Congress, the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the ignition problem.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., last week accused DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not fix the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

During the hearing, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

Experts say the paid suspensions likely follow GM’s process for getting rid of employees while protecting the company from unknowns that may come out in GM’s internal investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

“They have to be careful at this point not to over-react, despite all the pressure that’s being put on them certainly by Congress, public pressure,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. “I’ve got to believe they have an HR (human resources) binder that would sink a battleship. Step one is usually paid leave,” he said.

But others said there’s public relations value in taking action against employees. “They need to have a charm offensive, right?” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School who specializes in product liability. “Anything they can do to make themselves look like they’re more vigorous or rigorous on safety.”

Henning said any criminal charges are a long way off. In large organizations like GM, groups make decisions rather than individuals, as problems are bumped up the organizational chart, he said.

“It’s hard to be able to say `this is the person who made this decision,’ and him or her alone,” Henning said.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” said Barra, who has promised a transformation to a safety-first corporate culture.

The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

The latest issue with the ignition switches comes as GM fights a motion in a Texas federal court that would force it to tell the cars’ owners to stop driving them until they are repaired. GM says the cars are safe as long as objects are removed from the key chain. Plaintiffs claim that fix is insufficient. A judge is expected to rule this week.

Shares of GM closed Thursday down 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, at $33.30.

—-

Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers in the first disciplinary action stemming from its mishandled recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem. But the company also said a second ignition part in the cars must be fixed, boosting first-quarter recall costs above $1 billion.

The suspensions, with pay, come from GM’s own investigation into the recall. CEO Mary Barra promised Congress last week that she’d take action when appropriate, as lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem.

In a statement Thursday, Barra called the action an “interim step.” Management and legal experts said paid leave is likely the first step in a process that could lead to firing or early retirement. But it also means that GM probably doesn’t know yet if the engineers acted on their own or followed orders from a superior.

GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

The company would not identify the suspended employees, but in congressional hearings last week, lawmakers produced memos singling out ignition switch engineer Ray DeGiorgio. Attempts to reach DeGiorgio were unsuccessful.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. On Thursday, it announced that dealers would also replace the ignition lock cylinders on the same cars because drivers can remove the key while the engine is still running. That could lead to a rollaway or crash. GM said it knows of one related injury.

In the past two months, GM has announced recalls covering a total of 6.3 million vehicles for a number of issues. The estimated cost has now grown to $1.3 billion from $300 million initially.

In addition to Congress, the Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the ignition problem.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., last week accused DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not fix the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

During the hearing, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

Experts say the paid suspensions likely follow GM’s process for getting rid of employees while protecting the company from unknowns that may come out in GM’s internal investigation being led by former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas.

“They have to be careful at this point not to over-react, despite all the pressure that’s being put on them certainly by Congress, public pressure,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University in Detroit and a former federal prosecutor. “I’ve got to believe they have an HR (human resources) binder that would sink a battleship. Step one is usually paid leave,” he said.

But others said there’s public relations value in taking action against employees. “They need to have a charm offensive, right?” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond Law School who specializes in product liability. “Anything they can do to make themselves look like they’re more vigorous or rigorous on safety.”

Henning said any criminal charges are a long way off. In large organizations like GM, groups make decisions rather than individuals, as problems are bumped up the organizational chart, he said.

“It’s hard to be able to say `this is the person who made this decision,’ and him or her alone,” Henning said.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect customer safety. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” said Barra, who has promised a transformation to a safety-first corporate culture.

The ignition switches can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

The latest issue with the ignition switches comes as GM fights a motion in a Texas federal court that would force it to tell the cars’ owners to stop driving them until they are repaired. GM says the cars are safe as long as objects are removed from the key chain. Plaintiffs claim that fix is insufficient. A judge is expected to rule this week.

Shares of GM closed Thursday down 32 cents, or just under 1 percent, at $33.30.

—-

Marcy Gordon contributed from Washington.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers with pay in the first disciplinary action linked to its delayed recall of more than 2 million small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem.

The move stems from GM’s internal investigation of the matter. At congressional hearings last week, lawmakers alleged that at least one company engineer tried to cover up the switch problem. GM CEO Mary Barra promised action against anyone deemed to have acted inappropriately.

GM, in a statement Thursday, said the engineers were placed on leave after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, whom GM has hired to figure out why it took more than a decade to recall the cars. GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the defective switch, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

Company spokesman Greg Martin would not identify the engineers.

“This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened,” Barra said in the statement. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM.”

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, mostly Chevrolet Cobalts and Saturn Ions, to replace the switches. The Justice Department and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating GM’s slow response to the problem.

During a hearing last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., accused GM engineer Ray DeGiorgio of trying to cover up the switch problem. DeGiorgio said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. But McCaskill produced a document from 2006 showing he signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

Lawmakers were also critical of a decision made within GM’s engineering ranks to not implement a proposed fix for the switch because it would be too costly and time-consuming.

Barra acknowledged at the hearing that DeGiorgio still works for GM. She called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She also said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM would take action, including firing those involved.

On Thursday, McCaskill said in a statement that “it’s about time” GM took action.

“This marks a small step in the right direction for GM to take responsibility for poor – and possibly criminal -decisions that cost lives and put millions of American consumers at risk,” she said.

GM would not make DeGiorgio available for an interview. He did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press. A recording on DeGiorgio’s work voicemail says he’s away from the office and refers business calls to two other GM employees.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect the safety of customers. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” Barra said in the statement.

The ignition switches on the small cars can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

Shares of GM rose 10 cents, or 0.3 percent, to $33.72 in Thursday afternoon trading.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has suspended two engineers with pay in the first disciplinary action linked to its delayed recall of thousands of small cars for a deadly ignition switch problem.

The action came after allegations during congressional hearings last week that at least one engineer tried to cover up the switch problem by fixing it without changing the part number.

GM, in a statement Thursday, said the engineers were placed on leave after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, whom GM has hired to figure out why the company was so slow to recall the cars. GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the problem, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

Company spokesman Greg Martin would not identify the engineers.

“This is an interim step as we seek the truth about what happened,” CEO Mary Barra said in the statement. “It was a difficult decision, but I believe it is best for GM.”

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, to replace the switches.

During congressional hearings on the matter last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill accused one GM engineer of a cover-up. Ray DeGiorgio, the lead switch engineer on the Cobalt, said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. But McCaskill produced a document from GM’s switch supplier that showed DeGiorgio signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

“What we don’t know yet is how many people knew about the changing of the defective part and hiding that change behind using the same part number,” McCaskill said after the hearing. “It may have been isolated to a small number of engineers that were trying to cover themselves. There was a culture of … covering up the problem as opposed to being accountable for the mistakes they’ve made.”

During the hearings, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She said at the time that the company has not fired any employees in connection with the recall. But she said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM will take action, including firing those involved.

GM would not make DeGiorgio available for an interview. He did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press. A recording on DeGiorgio’s work telephone number says he’s away from the office and refers business calls to two other GM employees.

Also Thursday, GM announced a program to recognize employees who speak up when they see something that could affect the safety of customers. “GM employees should raise safety concerns quickly and forcefully, and be recognized for doing so,” Barra said in the statement.

The company said she announced the program, called “Speak Up for Safety,” at an employee meeting Thursday.

Employees also will be recognized for ideas that make vehicles safer, the statement said.

No details of the program were given, but the statement said they will be announced within the next 30 days.

The ignition switches on the small cars can unexpectedly slip out of the “run” position to “accessory” or “off.” That shuts off the engine and the power-assisted steering and brakes and can cause drivers to lose control of their cars. It also disables the air bags. In many of the crashes, drivers have inexplicably veered off the road or into traffic.

Parts to begin fixing the cars are to start arriving at dealerships on Friday. But Barra has said it likely will take until October before all the cars are repaired.

GM puts 2 engineers on paid leave in recall case

KDWN

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors has placed two engineers on paid leave as an outside attorney investigates why the company took more than a decade to recall millions of small cars for an ignition switch problem.

The action was taken after a briefing from former U.S. Attorney Anton Valukas, whom GM has hired to figure out why the company was so slow to recall the cars. GM says at least 13 people have been killed in crashes linked to the problem, but family members of those who died say the death toll is much higher.

GM spokesman Greg Martin would not identify the engineers. CEO Mary Barra called the move an interim step as the company tries to find out what happened, according to the statement.

GM is recalling 2.6 million compact cars worldwide, including the Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion, to replace the switches.

During congressional hearings on the matter last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill accused one GM engineer of a cover-up. Ray DeGiorgio, the lead switch engineer on the Cobalt, said in a deposition last year for a lawsuit against GM that he never approved a change to the ignition switch. But McCaskill produced a document from GM’s switch supplier that showed DeGiorgio signed off on a replacement, but with the same part number. Failing to change a part number makes the part harder to track.

“There is no reason to keep the same part number unless you’re trying to hide the fact that you’ve got a defective switch out there that in fact ended up killing a number of people on our highways,” the Democrat McCaskill said on a Sunday television news show.

During the hearings, Barra called the failure to change the part number “unacceptable.” She said at the time that the company has not fired any employees in connection with the recall. But she said if inappropriate decisions were made, GM will take action, including firing those involved.

GM would not make DeGiorgio available for an interview. He did not return telephone messages left by The Associated Press.