| WASHINGTON, Sept 27
WASHINGTON, Sept 27 Two defense contractors who
employed Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis are pointing
fingers at one another after keeping him on the job despite his
mental health problems.
The dispute this week led contractor Hewlett-Packard
to cancel its work with Florida-based subcontractor, The
Experts, which hired Alexis to do information technology work on
U.S. Navy bases.
Authorities on federal contract law say the finger-pointing
may have broader implications if families of the 12 victims of
the Sept. 16 shootings file lawsuits. Alexis was killed by
police in a gun battle.
HP wrote in a letter to The Experts CEO Thomas Hoshko,
obtained by Reuters, that it "has lost all confidence in The
Experts' ability to meet its contractual obligations and serve
as an HP subcontractor."
The Experts fired back a note saying it "had no greater
insight into Alexis' mental health than HP."
The Navy asked HP in a Sept. 23 letter to report back this
week about any "adverse information" it provided or did not
provide so far about Alexis.
A Navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
federal regulations require contractors to report adverse
information, which includes "any information that adversely
reflects upon the integrity or character of a cleared employee."
A U.S. Senate committee has scheduled a hearing on Monday
that will explore how Alexis secured a clearance that he used to
enter Navy installations. A 2007 background investigation
allowed him to gain clearance after joining the Navy Reserve.
In August, just weeks before the shooting, a Newport, Rhode
Island police report showed that Alexis told police he was
hearing voices in a hotel while there on a business trip.
HP, in severing ties to The Experts, said the company failed
to respond appropriately to Alexis' mental health issues.
In its response, The Experts said HP had a site manager
closely supervising Alexis, including when he was in Rhode
WORKED AT SEVERAL MILITARY SITES
Before the shooting, Alexis had been sent to military
installations in Little Creek, Virginia, Newport, Rhode Island,
Cherry Point, North Carolina and the Washington D.C. area,
according to a letter from Hoshko to the Navy obtained by
Alexis arrived in the Washington area on Aug. 25, staying at
two different hotels before moving to a Residence Inn in
Washington D.C. on Sept. 7. He remained there until the
shooting, the FBI said.
It said that on Sept. 16, he passed through Navy Yard
security, parked in an employee garage and entered Building 197
with a sawed-off shotgun in a backpack. The weapon had phrases
scratched into it, including "End to the torment."
The FBI said Alexis thought for months he was being
controlled by ultra-low frequency waves.
The Experts acknowledged that it pulled Alexis off his
Newport assignment for a few days rest. But the company allowed
him to return to work after speaking with people with whom
Alexis had been in contact.
"Alexis' performance after he returned to work was
satisfactory," a source close to The Experts said.
The Experts CEO Hoshko, in a letter Thursday to staff who
were affected by the Navy Yard shooting, said: "I truly believe
we have continued to meet all our obligations and know that our
valued and trusted employees have done nothing wrong."
Monday's Senate hearing will examine the limits of
The investigation of Alexis did not pick up on his use of a
firearm in Seattle in 2004 to shoot out a car's tires.
Frederic Levy, a suspension and debarment lawyer at McKenna
Long and Aldridge, said "there is no bright line" on what
precise kinds of employee behavior have to be reported to the
For example, a person suffering mild depression due to
family problems may be getting weekly professional help. That
does not necessarily need to be reported.
"There is a point in time where I think that mental
instability would trigger a reporting requirement," he said.
Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at The Heritage
Foundation, said acting too precipitously against an employee
with mental issues may trigger a discrimination lawsuit under
the Americans with Disabilities Act.
"Companies are put into kind of a Catch-22 these days," he
said. "They've got this very narrow knife edge to run between on
the one hand protecting everyone and on the other hand not
violating the Americans with Disabilities Act."