Deepwater whistle-blower 'has a conscience,' attorney says
Attorney says DeKort did everything possible to work within chain of command
- By Alice Lipowicz
- Jun 05, 2009
Former Deepwater engineer Michael DeKort did everything possible to work within the chain of command to fix serious problems on the project, but he was forced to file a lawsuit after exhausting all other avenues, his attorney told Washington Technology today.
“Michael DeKort has a family, but he also has a conscience,” Samuel Boyd, attorney for DeKort, said.
DeKort filed a False Claims Act lawsuit against the prime contractors for the Coast Guard project seeking $720 million in damages for the government, which was served on the defendants last week.
He alleges in the suit that Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. were seriously deficient in their performance resulting in many flawed systems on the Deepwater boats and a waste of taxpayer funds. The Coast Guard is seeking a refund for $96 million for unsound patrol boats produced under Deepwater.
DeKort, who worked as an engineer for Lockheed Martin on the Deepwater project in 2003 and 2004, said in the complaint that he personally observed shoddy practices in the development and installation of command and control information technology systems for the boats.
“Michael DeKort did not want things to go badly wrong with the Coast Guard project, and he did not seek counsel, nor money, nor anything, as he wandered up the chain of the command at Lockheed and at the DHS,” said Boyd, who is based in Dallas.
DeKort “tried everything he could to get the involved parties to resolve the problems without going external. He has a family, but he also has a conscience. Sometimes the conscience can make us unpopular with institutions,” Boyd said.
The Justice Department has decided not to intervene in the case, but may become involved later, Boyd said. The Justice Department asked for a delay in the proceeding to continue its own investigation, but was denied the full amount of time requested by the court, he added.
Boyd said the lack of Justice Department intervention is no reflection on the substance of the case. “Justice continues their investigation as of this date. They are in constant communication with the defendant,” Boyd said.
Justice officials were not immediately available for comment.
In False Claims Act lawsuits, plaintiffs can either pursue a case with the Justice Department, without the department, or they can work together. If the plaintiff wins, the government can collect damages of up to three times its losses and the plaintiff can collect 25 to 30 percent of the recovery amount. In this case, that would entitle DeKort to a maximum payment of $252 million if he wins.
Northrop officials declined comment, and Lockheed Martin officials said on June 3 they would “vigorously defend” against the charges, which they said they had investigated internally and found to be without merit.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.