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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Software company sues University

A software development company is suing the University because the school failed to pay more than $200,000 for an extensive, year-long project to digitize school records.

The University contracted Richmar and Associates, a D.C.-based company, in early 2006 to create a code that would facilitate the virtual storage and retrieval of important, often confidential documents, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. After paying Richmar more than $1.5 million for the code and document scanning, the University withheld funds for the final services, claiming the software did not operate properly, the lawsuit states.

Richmar is suing the school on five counts, including copyright infringement and breach of contract, according to the plaintiff’s complaint. Federal National, a corporation that loaned Richmar money, is also suing the school for breach of contract.

Tracy Schario, a University spokesperson, said the judge requested the two sides settle the issue out of court. If they are unable to, the case will return before the judge. Schario declined comments on specifics of the case.

“As I understand it, we have withheld final payment, and that’s part of his lawsuit,” Schario said of Richmar CEO Richard Gordon. “He would like his final payment.”

The code – called the Document and Case Management System – was developed at a discounted rate because it was a brand-new technology in higher education, according to both parties in the lawsuit. Richmar developed similar code for the Federal Aviation Administration and other government agencies, according to court documents.

Though it is now being used in many departments within the University, it was initially intended for use in GW’s human resources department, which keeps a large number of personnel records.

In March 2007, Ron Bonig, GW’s chief information officer, said the University was not satisfied with the DCMS and would not pay the final fees of more than $200,000, according to both parties in court documents.

“GW is an 8,000-pound gorilla compared to Richmar,” said Geoffrey Gitner, Richmar’s attorney. “It apparently thinks it can thumb its nose at vendors. Unfortunately, this is the way they like to do business.”

Richmar developed a system that bridges two pieces of software, allowing users within GW’s network to access documents based on their position at the University, the initial contract states.

A program called Documentum allows documents to be scanned and stored as well as edited by certain users within the University. The Richmar code seamlessly links the Banner system – a database of all members of the GW community – to Documentum, allowing staff access to certain records across the University.

In its complaint, Richmar said that GW never alerted them to any problems with the software during the initial development phase.

“GW has never specified what was wrong with the system,” Gitner said. “To this day they have failed to specify what exactly the basis is for their claims.”

The University said the code faltered when searching for specific documents. In the lawsuit, GW also said they did alert Richmar of this and other problems following the first release of the code, but eventually fixed the errors itself.

In order to repair the code, GW hired technical consultant Crown Partners to evaluate the system under a non-disclosure agreement, according to documents filed by the University.

Richmar states in its complaint that altering the code was a violation of their copyright, and sharing it with Crown Partners – a competing company – caused their firm irreparable harm. GW responded saying it is not guilty of copyright infringement because it may be a joint author and legal owner of the code.

Gitner said GW refused payment because it ran out of the money it initially budgeted for the project.

“They then got Richmar on false pretenses to scan in the documents, and then three months after that they told Richmar ‘We’re not paying you because we don’t like the work you did,'” Gitner said.

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