Whistle-blower Silenced 

Ex-Army officer settles lawsuit; investigation finds no wrongdoing

The former Army officer from Colorado Springs who blew the whistle on alleged contracting abuses in the U.S. missile-defense program has settled a lawsuit against him by a military contractor that accused him of defamation.

The settlement came just two days after an Army agency, which was investigating the circumstances of the officer's firing, announced it had discovered no wrongdoing.

Biff Baker, a retired Army Space Command lieutenant colonel, issued a written statement Jan. 31 saying he had settled the lawsuit against him by SY Technology, a California-based contractor with offices in the Springs.

Baker has previously said he might agree to settle because he couldn't afford to defend himself. The agreement appears to mean he will no longer publicly discuss his allegations of contract abuse.

"As of Friday, the lawsuit among SY Technology, Jay Garner and me has been settled, and I will not discuss it any further," Baker's statement read in its entirety. When reached by phone, Baker declined additional comment.

Garner is a retired Army general and former commander of the Space and Missile Defense Command, who now serves as president of SY Technology.

Won't disclose terms

SY Technology and Garner sued Baker after a story appeared in the Independent last June in which Baker claimed that military officials had improperly awarded contract work to the company (the full story, "Rocket Racket," appeared last June 13 and can be accessed online at www.csindy.com). Baker further claimed he had been fired from his civilian contract job after bringing his concerns to the attention of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency.

According to Baker, SY Technology was awarded as much as $100 million worth of contract work on the missile-defense program without required competitive bidding an allegation the company denies.

In its lawsuit against Baker, filed in the 4th Judicial District Court in El Paso County, SY Technology claimed he intentionally libeled and defamed the company by making false statements that hurt the company's ability to do business.

Baker has steadfastly maintained that his statements were true, but he has said he was considering a proposed settlement because he could no longer afford to pay his attorney.

In past interviews, Baker declined to discuss details of the settlement talks. He did say, however, that SY Technology wanted him to stop raising his allegations of misconduct.

"Basically, they want me to shut up," he said in November.

Baker also hinted he was trying to get SY Technology to pay his legal fees.

"I cannot disclose the terms of the settlement but won't sign something where I have to admit I was wrong (because I wasn't)," Baker wrote in an e-mail message at the time. "Nor will I sign unless it helps my fiscal situation."

Garner and SY Technology have referred all questions about the lawsuit to their Denver-based attorney, Craig Richardson, who did not respond to a request for comment.

Partial investigation

Baker's claims were investigated last year by the U.S. General Accounting Office, which ended up referring the matter to the Department of the Army's Office of the Inspector General.

The Office of the Inspector General announced in a Jan. 29 letter to Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., that it had found no wrongdoing. However, the letter indicates that investigators looked only at whether Missile Defense Agency officials had been involved in improperly firing Baker, and not at whether his claims of fraud, waste and abuse were true.

"The allegation that [Missile Defense Agency officials] improperly reprised against Mr. Baker by removing/terminating him ... for reporting fraud, waste and abuse was not founded," the letter states.

The letter did not provide details about the investigation, and a spokeswoman at the Pentagon said the Army would not comment on the matter.

The Missile Defense Agency also reportedly launched an internal investigation last year into Baker's fraud allegations. A spokesman for the agency, Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, did not respond to questions about the status of that investigation by press time.

Terje Langeland


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