Allegations include brothel visits, STD outbreak, and a trainee considering purchase of woman for $20,000
KMB client James Gordon filed suit against ArmorGroup North America for whistleblower retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act after he complained about serious misconduct at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan and in Bahrain.
On September 9, 2009, KMB client James Gordon filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against his former employer ArmorGroup North America (AGNA) and several affiliates for whistleblower retaliation in violation of the False Claims Act. Mr. Gordon, who served as AGNA’s Director of Operations, had complained about serious violations committed by AGNA and related companies at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan and in Bahrain. The violations he complained about included: the failure to adequately staff the Kabul embassy in violation of the company’s contract with the Department of State; the permission of visits by AGNA employees to brothels notorious for trafficking women in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act; the purchase of counterfeit goods from a Lebanese company owned by the wife of AGNA’s Logistics Manager; and the attempted substitution of refurbished, subpar Iraqi vehicles in place of the armored escort vehicles the company has promised the State Department it would purchase to transport goods to and from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In response, AGNA demoted and harassed Mr. Gordon, and ultimately terminated his employment.
Mr. Gordon is not the first person to file a case against this employer. In 2008, James Sauer and Peter Martino, former project managers filed a civil action against the same company for unlawful terminations in retaliation for their whistleblowing about fraudulent representations. TIME has reported that this case was settled out of court and that Sauer’s attorney says neither she nor her client can speak to TIME.
According to the court filings, James Gordon, a citizen of New Zealand and a resident of Virginia spent four years as a Commissioned Officer with the South African Defense Force, seven years as a Commissioned Officer in the New Zealand Army, and held high-level positions with defense security firms in Northern Iraq and Baghdad. He joined ArmorGroup Iraq in 2004.
The current investigations and this lawsuit (unless settled out of court) is bound to bring much more sunshine into contractor performance and accountability and the contracting oversight and practices performed by the State Department. Item #52 in the Gordon lawsuit has the following:
For example, in an email from Mr. Gordon dated September 6, 2007, to the Contracting Officer’s Representative discussing AGNA’s firing of two members of its guard force, Mr. Gordon that there was not a single relief guard available should AGNA have to replace any other guards. He stated:
“For now we are OK but if one person gets sick or slips on a banana peel the whole thing falls apart like a cheap suit.”
In response, the Contracting Officer’s Representative glibly stated, “Lock up the banana supply.”
The shortage of guard personnel appears real enough if there are no relief guards available and yet the COR’s response is to “lock up the banana supply??” What kind of response is that?
The Gordon lawsuit also contains allegations of falsified language qualifications (#50), lapsed International Traffic in Arms Regulations license (items #53-56), brothel visits (#68 and #69), outbreak of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (“STDs”) among AGNA workers (see item #73 and #76), and verbal and physical altercation between AGNA guards and an Afghanistan Ministry of Interior policeman (item #62).
But the thing that could drag this contractor back to the Hill is the allegation that “AGNA formulated a response to Congress’ document demand that deliberately omitted inclusion of any documents relating to the allegations that AGNA’s Program Manager, Armorer, and Medic frequented brothels, the subsequent investigation of and disciplinary action taken against Mr. Du Plessis, the outbreak of STDs among the workforce, or the incident involving the trainee referenced above (the trainee was considering purchasing a woman for $20,000)” (see #102 and #103).
Just how much more mud and worms are going to come out of this can remains to be seen.
- Gordon v. ArmorGroup North America Complaint
- Read the Gordon v. ArmorGroup Press Release
- TIME: Behind the Afghan Embassy Scandal, a Cost-Cutting Security Firm
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- 2 Say They Reported Abuses at Embassy (nytimes.com)