February 14, 2008

Spirit Lake denies guilt

BUSINESS:  Spirit Lake leaders dispute New York Times story Sioux Manufacturing paid about $2 million in December to settle that lawsuit. The suit alleges the company was "underweaving" the Kevlar material used in helmets, producing weaves with fewer than 35-by-35 Kevlar threads per square inch, an established minimum. The company did not, however, officially admit fault.

In a letter sent to several Times Editors, Chairwoman Myra Pearson charges a Feb. 6 New York Times article detailing the lawsuit is misleading and "riddled with inaccuracies." A 21-page addendum to the letter excerpts 31 separate lines from the Times story, criticizing each one extensively.

At the heart of the letter and the addendum are a pair of claims first made in the Sioux manufacturing press release announcing the settlement: That the company's decision to settle the lawsuit was not an admission of guilt, but a pragmatic decision based on the relative cost of litigation; and that the lawsuit itself was baseless and brought by "disgruntled former employees."

Those claims were disputed soon after the settlement by U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley who told an Associated Press reporter, "They were underweaving. That is not debatable. It's apparently spinnable but not debatable."

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