Reporter for Tampa Bay Times subpoenaed following investigative report

December 22, 2020

On Dec. 22, 2020, Bethany Barnes, an investigative reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, said she was subpoenaed by GardaWorld, a security services company, for documents relating to a series of investigative reports that revealed irregularities in maintenance and safety protocols at the company.

The subpoena was issued in connection to a 2017 lawsuit by GardaWorld in Manatee County, Florida, against the company’s former director of risk management, Christine Bouquin, whom Garda has accused of stealing company records. According to the Times, the subpoena requested all documents and communications between Barnes, Bouquin and Bouquin’s lawyer, Noel McDonell.

In March 2020, the Times published its first investigative story about GardaWorld, describing how the armored truck service the company operates in the U.S. had been neglectful in the training of its drivers and how maintenance requests made by the drivers had largely been ignored. The report quoted Bouquin, who said she had noticed issues in the company’s maintenance and safety system, and alleged that she was terminated a day after she sent an email to her supervisor about the company’s safety issues.

GardaWorld had threatened to sue the Times if it published its story about the company’s safety issues, according to the Times.

In a second report, published in October, the Times found “that Garda lost track of millions of dollars inside its vaults, then concealed the missing money from the banks that were its clients.” The report alleged that Garda also told its employees to downplay the cost of truck accidents in order to misrepresent the company’s value.

In December, Barnes took to Twitter, writing, “Some news: I have been served with a subpoena today.” The tweet also quoted attorney Carol LoCicero, who represents the paper, saying, “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.”

The outlet also published an article on the subpoena.

Neither Barnes nor LoCicero responded to a request for comment as of press time.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected]