Industry

TechAmerica, ITI trade accusations

Trey Hodgkins

Trey Hodgkins is one of the three former TechAmerica employees being sued by the association for the way in which they joined the Information Technology Industry Council.

The Information Technology Industry Council has fired back at an industry rival, asking a Washington, D.C., court to dismiss a lawsuit over ITI's hiring of three former TechAmerica lobbyists.

Meanwhile, TechAmerica detailed some of its claims against its former employees and ITI.

The latest salvos come in the wake of a TechAmerica suit filed in early November against three former employees, and against ITI for hiring those employees. TechAmerica claimed the former lobbying executives breached their contracts by leaving abruptly for ITI and taking proprietary information with them.

TechAmerica's suit, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Nov. 8, followed the Nov. 4 resignation of four of its most senior public procurement lobbyists -- Trey Hodgkins, Erica McCann, Pam Walker and Carol Henton. On Nov. 5, ITI announced that those four would be the core of its new venture, the Information Technology Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS).

TechAmerica named Hodgkins, Walker and Henton its suit, but not McCann. TechAmerica is looking for $5 million in damages, a temporary restraining order barring disclosure of trade secrets, a permanent injunction, punitive damages, attorneys' fees and court costs.

On Nov. 27, ITI asked the D.C. Superior Court's Civil Division to dismiss the suit, claiming it was based on "a variety of nebulous claims" and that TechAmerica couldn't specify how it was harmed.

"[T]he complaint fails these basic and fundamental rules: it repeatedly fails to allege facts sufficient to support the material elements of TechAmerica's putative causes of action, instead relying upon recitations of the elements of a claim or omitting elements completely," said ITI's filing.

In a statement to ITI board members, the group's top executive said TechAmerica has refused to discuss the matter privately.

"We continue to believe this legal action is imprudent and a waste of resources that are best devoted to advancing policy on behalf of the sector," ITI President and CEO Dean Garfield said in the statement. "With that in mind, we intend to pursue a singular strategy of moving to resolve this matter quickly and efficiently. We would prefer to achieve that goal through settlement; however, to date, TechAmerica has rejected our overtures. As such, we intend to move expeditiously to seek a judicial resolution while remaining open to a settlement."

In statements and internal memos circulated the week of Thanksgiving, TechAmerica's leadership heaped scorn on ITI and unveiled a few new details in its case.

"TechAmerica is an association of hundreds of member companies and thousands of member professionals who invest significant time and money to serve the collective interest of the technology industry," TechAmerica President and CEO Shawn Osbourne said in a statement. "One of the most important issues to this industry is the protection of intellectual property. We work continuously to protect our companies and the government from those that want to steal our IP. So I continue to be amazed by the fact that ITI, the very association that tells Congress how to protect IP, are the ones stealing it."

Osborne said it was "preposterous" for ITI to assert that none of the confidential or proprietary TechAmerica information to which the former employees had access was being used by ITI.

"Only three days after the employees departed, TechAmerica had discovered enough illegal acts to file a complaint against three of the individuals and ITI," he said. "That documentation demonstrates activities that are not just unethical, but also illegal. Since filing the complaint, we have come to find that those findings were just the tip of the iceberg."

A Nov. 25 memo to TechAmerica board members alleged the four departing employees took internal TechAmerica documents with them to ITI, including board materials and legislative analyses created by other TechAmerica employees.

The memo also alleged one employee had wiped a TechAmerica-issued mobile device, but kept the data on a personal cloud drive and another had deleted three gigabits of documents on a TechAmerica server and computer and changed the passwords on a TechAmerica-paid Dropbox account to deprive TechAmerica of its rightful access to the information.

The memo also alleged the departed employees schemed to steal TechAmerica members for ITI and provided TechAmerica membership information to ITI in response to requests from an ITI executive.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer at FCW.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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