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Army may ban security firm from contracts

Nov. 12, 2007 - 05:04AM   |   Last Updated: Nov. 12, 2007 - 05:04AM  |  
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The Army has threatened to ban a private security firm in Iraq from government work because an executive allegedly got inside information to win $2.5 million in contracts, Army records show.

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The Army has threatened to ban a private security firm in Iraq from government work because an executive allegedly got inside information to win $2.5 million in contracts, Army records show.

Eric Barton, a former manager in Iraq for EOD Technology, was accused by the Army Suspension and Debarment Office of helping his company win convoy security work last year while having an affair with Air Force Capt. Sherrie Remington, a contracting officer, according to records released to USA Today under the Freedom of Information Act.

Remington gave Barton information about previous security contracts and awarded his company seven contracts between January and March of 2006, according to the records from the Army Suspension and Debarment Office.

Remington gave two contracts to EODT without asking for other bids, and approved three other contracts for the Tennessee-based company even though other firms had lower bids, the records show. In contracting files, Remington said the lower-priced competitors were either too busy with other work or had problems delivering on past contracts.

The Army told EODT in a show-cause letter issued Sept. 14 that it was considering banning the company from future contracts because the allegations against Barton may show weaknesses with the company's management and ethics. Before making a final decision, the Army's anti-fraud office requested documents detailing the company's internal controls and policies to show why it shouldn't be banned from government work.

Eric Quist, EODT's director of business and legal affairs, said in an e-mail to USA Today that the company plans to "assist in whatever manner possible" and provide information the Army requested.

"To comment on the precise information EODT intends to supply would not be appropriate," Quist said, declining further comment.

The Army Suspension and Debarment Office went one step further against Barton. It notified the former company executive in September that the Army proposed banning him from any future government contracts. Pentagon regulations do not set a deadline for the Army to take final action.

EODT is the second U.S.-based company this year facing a possible contracting ban as part of an ongoing crackdown on corruption and mismanagement in the $47 billion U.S. reconstruction of Iraq. The Army notified Parsons Corp. in March that it is considering banning the construction giant because of problems with a canceled contract to build health clinics in Iraq.

So far, only one U.S.-based company has been barred from government contracting for wrongdoing in Iraq since the war began: Custer Battles, a security firm was banned until at least March 2009 after the Air Force concluded the company inflated its bills to the former U.S.-led occupation government.

Barton told investigators that he had an "intimate relationship" with Remington, but he said neither one of them benefited financially from the contracts, records show. In a brief telephone interview, Barton said the case against him was based on "a false allegation by employees that were terminated."

"It's untrue, that's all I can say about it," Barton said.

The Army documents say prosecutors declined to file criminal charges against Barton because there was no evidence he gave money or gifts to Remington in exchange for government work.

Remington told Air Force investigators that her relationship with Barton began after she left Iraq in March 2006 and not while she made contract decisions. The Air Force settled Remington's disciplinary case with an unspecified administrative punishment, according to an Aug. 14 letter from Capt. May Gordon, an Air Force lawyer at Hill Air Force Base, to Brian Persico, a lawyer for the Army Suspension and Debarment Office.

Remington could not be reached for comment; the telephone numbers she listed in the Army records are no longer hers and she is not listed in telephone directories for the area around Hill Air Force Base in Utah, where she is based.

Army records say Barton and Remington, who were married to others at the time, met in Iraq in late 2005 when Remington was a contract officer at the Joint Contracting Command Iraq.

EODT was one of five security firms competing for work organizing and protecting convoys, and Remington was the officer in charge of awarding and overseeing that work. The company hadn't gotten any convoy contracts before Barton and Remington began their affair, the records show.

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