Two former employees of a private security company filed a wrongful termination lawsuit yesterday in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia. The pair alleges they were fired after they blew the whistle on the firm's capability to protect a U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.
James Sauer and Peter Martino are suing London-based ArmorGroup International and its U.S. arm, ArmorGroup North America. Their complaint says they were fired after telling the U.S. State Department that the firm was unable to satisfy a $187 million government contract to provide security to an embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. They are seeking $66 million in damages.
Debra Katz and Lisa Banks of Katz, Marshall & Banks and Richard Condit of the Government Accountability Project filed the suit on behalf of Sauer and Martino. The complaint says the company deliberately understaffed and underpaid workers at the embassy. It says the companies made the decision to do this, despite numerous documented warnings made by Sauer and Martino. The complaint also claims the firm had misrepresented itself when seeking the contract, saying ArmorGroup knew it could not fulfill the agreement when it made the bid.
Senior vice president James Schmitt of ArmorGroup North America, which is based in McLean, Va., did not answer questions, but issued a statement refuting the claims. In it, he says Sauer and Martino were dismissed because they could not, or would not, perform the essential functions of their positions. He also says they "embarked on a smear campaign to achieve an undeserved multi-million dollar settlement from ArmorGroup by making wild allegations of wrongdoing and threatening to bring issues they created to the attention of the Inspector General for the U.S. State Department, Congress, the media and potential investors unless their financial demands were met."
Katz confirms her clients approached the firm for a settlement before filing the lawsuit. She said Sauer and Martino, both U.S. Marines for about 30 years, are now unemployed and have been "blackballed" from the private security industry as a result of the ordeal.
Katz's co-counsel in the case, Condit, says they asked the State Department to release any information about the contract. They filed under the Freedom of Information Act on Nov. 20, 2007. They also want to see what, if any, actions were taken because of Sauer and Martino's concerns. He says the information has yet to be released.