TechAmerica details accusations

Shawn Osborne_TechAmerica CEO

In a newly beefed-up court filing, TechAmerica officials spelled out what they say was a targeted, coordinated pilfering of some of the association's most valuable proprietary documents by former employees just before they abruptly left for a rival association.

TechAmerica's initial filing in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on Nov. 8 provided general allegations about the theft of membership information by the former employees but gave few specifics. An amended filing on Dec. 9 accuses the former employees of a coordinated, targeted theft of competitive information that rival Information Technology Industry Council could capitalize on.

TechAmerica's original suit 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 the four would form the core of its new venture, the IT Alliance for Public Sector.

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

ITI's leadership called the claims in TechAmerica's initial filing "nebulous" and has asked the court to dismiss the suit.

Of the latest TechAmerica filing, Robert Hoffman, ITI's senior vice president of government relations, said in a statement that his organization was "confident that we will be successful in court, while at the same continuing to advance our industry's job-creating policy agenda."

TechAmerica is now accusing Hodgkins of copying a substantial number of proprietary membership documents and reports to a virtual TechAmerica Dropbox account and later changing the password from his home computer to deny TechAmerica access to it.

The filing alleges that on Nov. 4 -- the day before they left for ITI -- both Hodgkins and Henton accessed TechAmerica's customer relationship management platform, and afterward, Hodgkins sent "many TechAmerica documents to his personal email account" from his TechAmerica account. Among those documents, the suit alleges, was a detailed timetable for TechAmerica's 2014 Federal CIO Survey, the association's premier annual research project that asks dozens of federal CIOs about their concerns for the coming year.

"In particular, access to this document would assist TechAmerica's competitors in creating similar research reports and events," the filing states.

The association also alleges that Henton emailed Hodgkins a copy of TechAmerica's "Public Sector Board Principles of Operation," a password-protected document that governs the operations of the board of directors that oversees the association’s Public Sector Group. TechAmerica said the document would give a competitor the ability to re-create similar processes and procedures for its own public-sector group, making it more attractive to TechAmerica's members.

"The complaint now includes additional details uncovered during our ongoing investigation," TechAmerica President and CEO Shawn Osborne said in a statement released Dec. 12. "What we are finding continues to surprise us in the egregious, unethical and illegal actions of these ITI employees. Because we believe that sunshine is the best disinfectant, we are being extraordinarily transparent with ITI's management and board as well as the community at large, which is extremely unusual in this situation. We remain hopeful that ITI will demonstrate a commitment to legal and ethical business practices for the good of the industry."

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

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, 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 [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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