Native company sues reporter, media over 8(a) story

An Alaska Native corporation is suing a California reporter and two media outfits for $24 million, claiming a news story investigating the company's federal contract to replace a rail bridge and train tracks in Napa Valley damaged its reputation.

Suulutaaq, a subsidiary of Kuskokwim Corp., says in its lawsuit that a January story by reporter Lance Williams unfairly takes issue with how the company and chief executive Sam Boyle landed what amounted to one of California's largest stimulus contracts. The $54 million stimulus project involves replacing a bridge used by the "Wine Train" -- a tourist attraction offering upscale dinners in antique railcars as the train winds through 25 miles of Napa Valley.

Williams' story examined Suulutaaq's role in the project, raising questions over the merits of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' awarding Suulutaaq the contract without competitive bidding. With no bidding the bridge will cost more, according to one construction contractor cited in Williams' story who had wanted to bid on the project.

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