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Bored workers play cards at clean energy firm that got federal funds

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Photo - From left, LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and LG Chem CEO Peter Bahn-Suk Kim break ground on the new LG Chem plant that will manufacture advanced batteries for Chevrolet and Ford electric cars, Thursday, July 15, 2010, in Holland, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
From left, LG Group Chairman Koo Bon-moo, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and LG Chem CEO Peter Bahn-Suk Kim break ground on the new LG Chem plant that will manufacture advanced batteries for Chevrolet and Ford electric cars, Thursday, July 15, 2010, in Holland, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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Workers at a Michigan electric car battery making firm that got millions of federal economic recovery funds have so little to do that they sit around playing cards, watching movies and reading magazines according to a local television news report.

"There would be up to 40 of us that would just sit in there during the day," former LG Chem employee Nicole Merryman told investigative reporters with Woodtv.com's Target 8 in Holland. Merryman said she left the firm in May because there was nothing to do.

"We were given assignments to go outside and clean; if we weren't cleaning outside, we were cleaning inside. If there was nothing for us to do, we would study in the cafeteria, or we would sit and play cards, sit and read magazines," said Merryman. "It's really sad that all these people are sitting there and doing nothing, and it's basically on taxpayer money."

LG Chem is supposed to manufacturer lithium-ion batteries to supply the auto industry for vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt. But electric vehicle sales have been far below hoped-for levels, with a result that LG Chem workers have nothing to do.

Many of the firm's employees have started doing work at area philanthropic and social service agencies in an effort to put the public funding given to LG Chem to good use, according to the Target 8 report.

"This is a symbol of where Michigan is going, this is a symbol of where Holland is going, and this is a symbol of where America's going," President Obama said in a July 2010 groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.

LB Chem is a Korean firm that describes itself on its web site as "one of the world's largest producers of advanced chemicals and materials in and a leading supplier of lithium-ion batteries. The $14 billion, Korea-based company employs over 14,000 people worldwide."

Target 8 said it was told the Department of Energy's Inspector-General is considering whether to investigate the situation.

"The U.S. Department of Energy provided a $151 million grant, part of Obama's Recovery Act," the report said. "The Korea-based company recently said it has 200 employees, and the company's most recent federal filing shows 100 of them are funded through the Recovery Act grant."

Almost half of the company's expenditures thus far has gone to foreign companies, most in Korea, according to Target 8.

Go here for the Target 8 video and online report.

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