City police IT contractor says it plans to sue police officer who filed federal whistleblower lawsuit

The tech firm B-Three Solutions says it plans to sue a city whistleblower over allegations made in a lawsuit. (Photo by Laurent Peignault/Unsplash)

Update (4/6/2018): B-Three Solutions filed a civil action suit on Thursday against Pittsburgh patrol officer Souroth Chatterji.

A statement on the website of the Plum-based technology company said Chatterji made defamatory allegations in a Feb. 14 whistleblower suit in which he claimed to have found evidence of wrongdoing and waste in the city’s handling of software projects created by B-Three.

“The allegations by Officer Chatterji and the media coverage of the City’s response to the same caused direct damage to both the long-standing reputation and business interests of BIII Solutions,” B-Three’s attorney Komron John Maknoon said in the statement.

The statement also said B-Three is asking the city to produce emails and documentation that show Chatterji’s allegations are false and that B-Three provided “more than sufficient services” to the city.

A call to Maknoon was not returned. Chatterji’s attorney Alec Wright said he had no comment.

Keyva Clark, a spokesperson for Mayor Bill Peduto, declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying it was between B-Three and Chatterji.

Asked about the request for emails B-Three said it is submitting to the city, Clark said the company was free to go through the Right-to-Know process like everyone else.

"We have no ill feelings towards B-Three or their work," Clark said.

 

B-Three Solutions plans to sue a Pittsburgh police officer who claims in a federal lawsuit that he uncovered problems with the firm’s police technology.

The fallout from the Feb. 14 lawsuit was “like a sucker punch straight to the gut,” B-Three President Michael Walton said in a statement, referencing media coverage of the lawsuit and statements from city officials.

The City of Pittsburgh was one of B-Three’s first customers in 2006, and the Plum-based company has gone on to create crucial public safety systems for the police bureau. It has also provided software to other departments and performed many other IT tasks for the city. Since 2010, the city has paid B-Three at least $4 million.

Pittsburgh Police Officer Souroth Chatterji. (Photo via Facebook)

Pittsburgh Police Officer Souroth Chatterji. (Photo via Facebook)

City officer Souroth Chatterji claims in his lawsuit that he uncovered evidence of shoddy work by B-Three, including three projects that were unfinished though paid for in full. The lawsuit was filed against the City of Pittsburgh and the city’s deputy director of Public Safety, Linda Rosato-Barone. B-Three is not named as a defendant.

“This guy needs to realize that we’re not just going to sit back and be a stepping stone on his path to an attempted payout from the City,” Walton said in a statement posted as a press release on B-Three’s website.

“His allegations have hurt our business, are completely untrue, and we have the facts to prove it.”

In his lawsuit, Chatterji claims he was assigned to look at B-Three’s work in 2015 by then-Chief Cameron McLay. According to the lawsuit, Chatterji says he learned that the city continued to use B-Three technology even though certain products were not completed and cheaper, more modern alternatives were available.

But B-Three claims Chatterji was out of his depth and lacked the expertise to evaluate the company’s tech projects.

“Officer Chatterji made blind, uninformed allegations without putting forth the effort to first discover all of the facts,” Walton said in the statement.

Chatterji’s lawyer Alec Wright declined to comment. B-Three’s lawyer did not return a call seeking additional comment.

Pittsburgh City Council today voted to approve an additional $572,640 in funding for B-Three to perform maintenance and upgrades on current systems. Several council members expressed reservations about the number of city systems that depend on B-Three.

The company in its press release claims that B-Three’s contract with the city is one of its “least profitable;” the company says that B-Three maintains about a quarter of the city’s software applications while payments to B-Three make up less than 3 percent of the city’s IT budget.

B-Three claims it has “donated” hundreds of thousands of dollars in uncompensated work time over 12 years.

Mayor Bill Peduto has criticized B-Three in the past but has not raised concerns of faulty work similar to Chatterji’s lawsuit. Rather, he has questioned whether B-Three’s projects are the best available for city officers.

A request for additional comment from the mayor’s office was not answered today.

However, at a press event earlier today, the mayor stressed that allegations involving B-Three projects and city employees were investigated by the FBI, which found no evidence of wrongdoing. A city investigation is ongoing.

Peduto pointed out that the city commissioned Deloitte in 2016 to evaluate the city’s technology and to give guidelines to keep the city on the right track in the future.

“All of this has already been discussed, brought up and trying to turn it into a conspiracy is confusing and alarming,” Peduto said, himself referencing news reports related to Chatterji’s lawsuit.

Responding to confirmation by police Chief Scott Schubert that B-Three projects the city fully paid for years ago had not been implemented, Peduto said, it is “not a unique situation” to have software the city purchased that is not being used.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. (Photo by Stephen Caruso/PublicSource)

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. (Photo by Stephen Caruso/PublicSource)

B-Three, however, takes issue with Peduto’s description of B-Three’s projects as “die-on-the-vine” technology, meaning the city would continue to use the systems while looking for replacements elsewhere.

Walton said in the statement that he considered stopping business with the city after seeing the negative characterization, but that he didn’t because it would leave the city unable to operate dozens of applications without B-Three’s technical support.

“We have a moral obligation to stay on and guarantee that these modules remain up and running, even if we’re not a part of the Mayor’s long-term vision,” Walton said.

Walton again blamed McLay for not implementing projects that B-Three claims were finished. Two of the projects named by Chatterji as unfinished were fully paid for in 2013. McLay wasn’t named police chief until September 2014.

McLay, who announced his resignation in November 2016, froze payments to B-Three around the time he reported concerns about the city’s relationship with the company to federal investigators in November 2015.

Last week, McLay stressed that he did not stop efforts to modernize police technology.

McLay did not respond to a message seeking additional comment.

In his lawsuit, Chatterji claims Rosato-Barone, who has long been involved in the city’s work with B-Three, retaliated against him for speaking out about his concerns. He claims she recently blocked a promotion.

Neither the city nor Rosato-Barone have responded to Chatterji’s allegations in federal court.

B-Three said it intends to file its own lawsuit in the next week.

Jeffrey Benzing is PublicSource's public safety reporter. He can be reached at jeff@publicsource.org or on Twitter @jabenzing. He can be reached securely at PGP: bit.ly/2Au8Ca9