Sometimes you feel like the federal government’s contracting officer is out to get you and your company. But, that doesn’t mean you can sue the contracting officer personally. Three courts have now held that the Contract Dispute Act (CDA) offers a comprehensive scheme for relief from the United States government, and the CDA does not allow for personal claims against the government employee.
In the most recent of these cases pursuing personal claims against governmental employees, MES, a company with 20 years of experience in governmental contracting, was terminated for default on three contracts. MES challenged the contract terminations before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals. The Appeals Board dismissed MES’ appeal. So, MES sued both the Corps of Engineers and individual Corps officials claiming that the termination for default was in retaliation for MES’ president complaining that the Corps violated the Anti-Deficiency Act by demanding that MES perform unfunded work.
The court dismissed MES’ claims finding that while constitutional claims against government officials, such as claims of free speech under the First Amendment, can proceed against government officials, those claims can only proceed when there is no comprehensive scheme for securing relief from the government. In the MES case, the Contract Dispute Act was the comprehensive scheme that provided MES with relief against the government. So, MES could not bring additional claims against the individuals at the Corps.
This case serves as reminder that if you are involved in federal government work, it is unlikely that you will ever be able to exact your revenge on the contract officer. Instead, you will have to be satisfied with recovering from the governmental entity before the appropriate appeals board.