By Doug Caldwell
Central Valley Business Times
April 16, 2009
• UPDATED with statement from SBA at 7:45 a.m.
• From Freedom of Information Act lawsuit
• Had sought the names of companies getting federal contracts
The Small Business Administration (SBA) has been ordered to pay the American Small Business League's legal fees in a recent federal court case, the ASBL says.
The Petaluma-based organization filed suit against the SBA after the agency refused to provide the names of all the firms that had received federal small business contracts for fiscal years 2005 and 2006.
The ASBL requested the information under the Freedom of Information Act to prove the SBA included billions of dollars in awards to Fortune 500 corporations and other large firms towards the government's 23 percent small business contracting goal.
In a recent story in the National Law Journal regarding the ASBL's legal victory over the SBA, the agency's Associate General Counsel Eric Benderson tried to deny that the ASBL won the case when he stated, "We won the case and decided not to appeal."
The lawsuit was ruled moot after ASBL obtained the information from the General Services Administration.
In an initial ruling against the agency, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel stated, "The court finds curious the SBA's argument that it does not 'control' the very information it needs to carry out its duties and functions."
Now Ms. Patel has ordered the SBA to pay ASBL’s legal bills in the suit.
The two sides may meet again in another courtroom showdown. On March 13 ASBL sued the SBA because the agency refused to release SBA Press Office Director Mike Stamler's telephone records for 2006 and 2007.
The ASBL says it intends to file an additional suit against the agency for refusing to release all of Mr. Stamler's e-mails for 2006 and 2007.
"There have been over a dozen federal investigations that found billions of dollars in federal small business contracts have been diverted to Fortune 500 firms. It is time for the FBI to investigate Stamler and Benderson and find out why these two SBA executives have worked so aggressively to mislead Congress and the public on this issue, withhold information, and libel and slander anyone that tries to expose the rampant fraud and abuse in SBA programs," says ASBL President Lloyd Chapman.
Mr. Stamler has not responded to repeated requests for comment, but Jonathan Swain, an assistant administrator for communications and public liaison at the SBA provided the following statement: “In her confirmation hearing two weeks ago Administrator Karen Mills, when asked about the SBIR program, expressed clearly that she believes the program is for small businesses and that she is committed to making sure small businesses aren't crowded out of those opportunities. That same commitment to ensuring small businesses aren't crowded out also applies to other federal government contracting opportunities.”