GardaWorld attorneys subpoena records from Times reporter

At issue is correspondence to and from a former manager-turned-whistleblower.
Attorneys for the security services company GardaWorld are seeking records from a Tampa Bay Times reporter.
Attorneys for the security services company GardaWorld are seeking records from a Tampa Bay Times reporter. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Dec. 22, 2020|Updated Dec. 23, 2020

A Tampa Bay Times reporter was served Tuesday with a subpoena for documents related to a series of investigative stories about GardaWorld, a security services company whose U.S. division, headquartered in Boca Raton, operates fleets of armored trucks.

A Times investigative report, written by Bethany Barnes and published in March, described the armored car business taking shortcuts on maintenance of its trucks and training of its drivers.

Garda’s attorneys, the law firm of Holland and Knight, subpoenaed Barnes in a 2017 case in Manatee County against Christine Bouquin, a former Garda risk manager who was quoted in the Times investigation. The subpoena asked for all communication between Barnes and Bouquin, and Barnes and Noel McDonnell, Bouquin’s attorney. It also asked for any documents or communications that were sent to Barnes about Garda at the request of Bouquin or McDonnell.

In the lawsuit, Garda has accused Bouquin of stealing records from the company. Bouquin and her attorney deny the allegation and say Garda abandoned the records when the company terminated her in 2016.

“The Times would fight any subpoena that attempts to extract information reporters have obtained during the course of their reporting, and we plan to fight this one,” said attorney Carol LoCicero, who represents the news organization.

The March Times report said Garda trucks regularly lacked reliable brakes, seatbelts or even seats. The Times interviewed 56 current or former Garda drivers. All but one said they worked in vehicles with mechanical problems.

Hundreds of people had been injured in Garda crashes and at least 19 died, many in wrecks caused by mechanical failures or driver error, the Times reported. Three more fatal crashes involving Garda trucks occurred after publication.

A subsequent article in October reported that Garda lost track of millions of dollars inside its vaults, then concealed the missing money from banks that were its clients. The October article also reported that Garda employees said they were told to manipulate financial records to downplay the potential costs of truck accidents, which would appear to make the company more valuable.

The Times attempted to interview Garda executives for both articles. Garda threatened to sue the Times if it published its March story on the company’s safety problems. “It is categorically false that our trucks lack basic safety features or that we do not invest in our fleet,” the company said in a statement.

In October, the company stopped returning inquiries from the Times.

Bouquin, the Times reported, was frustrated at Garda because she could not implement measures to make sure the trucks received the repairs they needed. She said she lost her job the day after she sent her supervisor an email, detailing her concerns. Garda has said Bouquin was terminated as part of a planned reorganization, and the company’s attorneys have said she is untruthful and has a “personal bias against GardaWorld.”