Sworn Testimony by ArmorGroup Executive Challenged
September 18, 2009 - 2:11 PMA top executive of the private security contractor hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan was informed in July 2008 of alleged illegal and immoral conduct by guards, attorneys for a whistleblower suing the company said Friday.
The claim contradicts the sworn testimony of Samuel Brinkley, a vice president for Wackenhut Services, the owner of ArmorGroup North America.
Brinkley told the Commission on Wartime Contracting under oath on Monday that he and other corporate officials outside of Afghanistan didn't know until a few weeks ago of problems that reportedly included lurid parties and ArmorGroup employees frequenting brothels in Kabul.
But in a 10-page letter to the commission, the attorneys say their client, James Gordon, told Brinkley during a meeting on July 15, 2008, of alleged guard misconduct.
The meeting took place in Brinkley's office in Arlington, Va., Gordon said in a separate e-mail through the lawyers.
Gordon was ArmorGroup's director of operations until February 2008. He says he was forced out of the job after trying to get the company to fix a long list of shortcomings with the $189 million embassy security contract that the State Department awarded ArmorGroup in March 2007. He filed a lawsuit earlier this month in federal court claiming the company retaliated against him for telling the department about the deficiencies.
Brinkley and Wackenhut did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement on the lawsuit, a Wackenhut spokeswoman called Gordon's claims baseless and said he voluntarily resigned from the company.
Clark Irwin, a spokesman for the wartime contracting commission, said the congressionally mandated panel is reviewing the letter.
At the commission's Sept. 14 hearing on ArmorGroup's performance, Brinkley portrayed himself and other company executives as being blindsided by the misconduct of a small number of employees.
"I am not here to defend the indefensible," Brinkley said. "Certain of our personnel behaved very badly."
During a series of heated exchanges, commissioners pressed Brinkley to explain why he didn't tell the State Department of reports that guards were behaving inappropriately, potentially putting security of a key U.S. diplomatic outpost at risk.
Brinkley said ArmorGroup managers in Afghanistan only told him about an Aug. 11 incident involving nine employees who got drunk at a bar near their living quarters. Those workers were counseled by the on-site manager and a temporary ban on alcohol was imposed. He said the State Department was informed of this incident on Aug. 26.
Brinkley said he wasn't aware of the scope and duration of the misconduct until Sept. 1 when a watchdog group released a report with photos showing guards and supervisors in various stages of nudity at parties flowing with alcohol.
The watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, also said guards were subjected to abuse and hazing by supervisors who created a hostile work environment.
The letter from Gordon's attorneys says they are concerned Brinkley's testimony did not provide the commission with a "full and accurate understanding of many of the events in question."
They also say an ArmorGroup manager being sent to Kabul as part of a new management team was instrumental in forcing Gordon out of ArmorGroup.
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