A retired Army colonel who blew the whistle on alleged fraud, waste and abuse in the U.S. missile-defense program is being sued by a defense contractor, which claims he harmed the company by spreading falsehoods.
SY Technology, a California-based corporation with offices in Colorado Springs, last week filed a lawsuit in the 4th Judicial District Court against Biff Baker, a former lieutenant colonel at Army Space Command.
The lawsuit is largely based on a June 13 article in the Independent, which described how Baker was fired from a civilian contract job after raising questions about what he claims were improper contracting practices in the missile-defense program.
Baker, who was hired by a government subcontractor to inspect work being done on the program, asserted that missile-defense agencies have awarded, or tried to award, work to SY Technology without seeking legally required competitive bids. In March, eight days after he discussed his concerns over the process with a high-ranking Army general, he was fired.
Now, SY Technology's lawsuit alleges that Baker pitched his story to media outlets as part of an orchestrated "public-relations campaign" to harm the company's reputation. It accuses Baker of defamation, conspiracy and "tortious interference," and of causing a "loss of privacy" for the company's president, retired Gen. Jay Garner.
The company is asking for unspecified damages and an injunction blocking Baker from making further "false and outrageous accusations."
Garner, in an e-mail message, refused to discuss the lawsuit.
"Our lawyers advise that our complaint speaks for itself and that we should pursue Biff Baker and his false charges in a court of law, not a court of public opinion," Garner wrote.
An attorney for the company, Joe Reeder, said his client was seeking "accountability."
"It is not uncommon, when false statements are made, for individuals who take their integrity seriously to seek redress for that," Reeder said.
Baker, meanwhile, says the lawsuit is groundless.
"I've never slandered SY Technology or Gen. Garner," he said.
In its lawsuit, SY Technology alleges that the Independent article contained numerous false statements by Baker. Copies of the article were handed out and discussed at several meetings attended by high-level missile-defense officials and private contractors, according to the lawsuit.
Prior to the article's publication, Baker also reported his concerns to the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Defense Department's Office of the Inspector General, both of which launched investigations into his claims.
The GAO recently dropped its inquiry, noting that the main contract questioned by Baker had been canceled, and citing the fact that the Office of Inspector General is conducting a "full investigation" into the matter. The Inspector General's office has refused to discuss the status of the case.
The effect of Baker's actions on SY Technology's business has been "dramatic," the company's lawsuit claims.
"Existing customers have been chilled in their dealings with SY Technology," the lawsuit states. "Prospective customers have been reluctant to give SY Technology new projects. ... SY Technology has not been successful in developing other new missile-defense business since the Colorado Springs Independent article was published."
In addition, the lawsuit claims that Baker didn't act alone. The company alleges that his participation was part of a "multi-state alliance" with DESE Research, an Alabama contractor that competes with SY Technology.
SY Technology suggests Baker may have had ulterior motives, insinuating that his actions may have benefited rival defense contractors "connected to Defendant Baker" and accusing him of trying to "raise his public visibility ... to advance his personal political ambitions." Baker is running as a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Colorado's 5th District.
In addition to the Independent, the lawsuit mentions the Boulder Weekly, which republished the June 13 article, and local talk radio station KKCS, where Baker discussed his case on the air. However, the lawsuit does not name any of the media outlets as a defendant.
SY Technology would not respond in detail to Baker's allegations for the June 13 article, though it responded in a follow-up story published July 18. Garner, the company's president, subsequently wrote an e-mail thanking the Independent for its "sincere attempt at fairness" in covering the matter.
Bizarre, absurd and paranoid
Baker dismisses the accusations against him and says he intends to fully defend himself. He says his statements have been accurate, and that he only contacted news outlets after trying to raise his concerns through proper channels.
Baker says he decided to go public when he began receiving anonymous death threats related to his efforts. By raising the profile of his case, he hoped to pre-empt any efforts to harm him or his family, he says.
"I was genuinely worried I was going to get bumped off," Baker said.
He also scoffs at suggestions that he stands to gain financially. On the contrary, he points out that he's lost his job and says he has since been unofficially "blacklisted" from working in the defense contracting community. "I have no ties to no companies."
He called the allegations that he was conspiring with DESE Research "bizarre, absurd and paranoid."
Baker suggests SY Technology is suing in an attempt to silence him. "SY Tech hopes, I think, to drain my resources," he said. "Because I haven't said anything that isn't truthful, so they can't win."
SY Technology attorney Reeder, meanwhile, said he's "confident that we'll be able to prove what we need to prove."
Baker had yet to hire a lawyer as of press time. He has until Sept. 9 to file a response to the lawsuit.