The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

March 24, 2009

Troubled lobbying firm sues research institute over fees

WINDBER — A disagreement over lobbyists’ fees has Windber Research Institute facing a $120,000 lawsuit in Arlington, Va.

The suit contends Windber did not pay the beleaguered PMA Group for several months’ lobbying on the institute’s behalf.

PMA Group was raided in November by the FBI. The Virginia firm was founded by Paul Magliochetti, who was a staff analyst for the defense appropriations subcommittee before U.S. Rep. John Murtha became its chairman.

PMA has announced it will dissolve by the end of this month.

The lawsuit is one of several PMA is filing against its clients, according to Roll Call, a conservative Capitol Hill publication.

“It’s a breach of contract for nonpayment,” PMA’s attorney, Carmen A. Jacobs, said Tuesday.

The civil action is not unusual in contract law, Jacobs stressed.

“Sometimes, that’s how you get a person’s attention,” he said.

Windber has not received a copy of the suit nor been notified of its filing, Chief Executive Officer Tom Kurtz said Tuesday.

“PMA never communicated with us of their intention to file a lawsuit,” Kurtz said.

The issue apparently involves a retainer fee Windber paid for PMA’s work, Kurtz said. The retainer normally was paid without question because PMA’s work was always up to par.

“In the last few months, it was called into question,” he said.

The institute is reviewing its records and will work with PMA to determine final payment.

“If we determine the service was provided during that period of time, we will pay what we owe,” Kurtz said.

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