TechAmerica lawsuit against ITI Council to move forward

Friday - 2/7/2014, 1:01pm EST

TechAmerica won the first battle in its lawsuit against the Information Technology Industry Council and three former employees.

Sources say the case will move into the discovery phase. Judge John Mott of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia did not rule on ITI's motion to dismiss the case.

Friday was the first meeting with the judge since TechAmerica and ITI Council filed lawsuits and briefs in November and December.

Sources also say ITI Council returned more than 59,000 pages of electronic material and more than 11,000 pages of paper material that TechAmerica alleges three former senior executives, Trey Hodgkins, Pam Walker and Carol Henton, took with them when they left to start a competing association, the IT Alliance for Public Sector (ITAPS). ITI Council returned the documents before the court meeting.

ITAPS is the part of ITI Council that focuses on federal, state and local government issues.

One source said the documents included print outs of congressional bills, comments about legislation and other public documents.

Several sources said ITI Council's actions during the short meeting with the judge were a sign that the association may be realizing there is merit to the lawsuit.

"By virtue of the actions they took today and based on where this is headed, it certainly seems that was the implication," said another source, who requested anonymity in order to talk to the press. "In my experience, they wouldn't be conceding to move forward with discovery if they didn't believe there was some merit. ITI didn't even put an argument in front of the judge before agreeing to move forward with discovery."

But other sources say ITI Council's lawyers haven't conceded, either in the courtroom or privately, that there is merit to the claims.

The first source told Federal News Radio, the judge said he will rule on ITI's motion to dismiss shortly and that will clarify the path forward with discovery.

"I don't think the judge was prejudging the motion to dismiss in any way," the source said. "He just said (ITI and TechAmerica) can move forward with the case."

The second source said the judge rejected ITI's offer to provide oral arguments or file other documents on the motion to dismiss.

Both parties will move into the discovery phase in the next few weeks.

"As it said in its motion to dismiss, which remains pending, ITI continues to believe the lawsuit is without merit," a spokeswoman said in an email to Federal News Radio. "The former TechAmerica employees have returned documents they had in their possession, as they had agreed to do upon TechAmerica's request. This lawsuit is nothing more than an unfortunate distraction from advancing the interests of the IT industry and a waste of resources for the member companies."

TechAmerica meanwhile provided the following statement to Federal News Radio: "We're pleased with today's outcome, and although ITI has not returned all of the material they stole, we are pleased that they returned 57,000 pages of stolen documents earlier this week. This combined with today's events clearly shows that the claim has merit. In the meantime, we are taking what we do well and making it even better by bringing on board outstanding new leaders who are already taking our member advocacy and intelligence to the next level."

TechAmerica filed a $5 million lawsuit against ITI and Hodgkins, Henton and Walker in November after the three former TechAmerica executives left the association along with Erica McCann, who is not included in the lawsuit, to start ITAPS.

TechAmerica alleges Hodgkins, Henton and Walker took proprietary information and violated confidentiality agreements.

ITI Council filed a motion to dismiss the case in December claiming TechAmerica's lawsuit was "fatally deficient" and "nebulous."

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