Broward County Votes to Terminate Controversial Airport Contract

County commissioners today voted to terminate an $8 million airport construction contract with a company that had ties to an investigation involving the late Arthur Teele, Jr.

Last week, the commission voted 5-4 to uphold the contract it approved in May with TLMC Enterprises. But minutes after the vote, Commissioner Ben Graber said he might have made a mistake. The commission agreed to reconsider it this week.

Today's 6-3 decision ends the contract immediately. Commissioners Ben Graber and Lois Wexler were the key votes.

Graber initially sought to limit the contract to one year and prohibit TLMC Enterprises from bidding on jobs in the future. Failing that, he supported the termination.

Graber said in an interview before the meeting that limiting the contract to one year would help the county ''avoid legal action and avoid pulling the rug out from under them right away.''

Graber said he was concerned about hurting employees who weren't involved in the dispute with the county, something TLMC owner Tammy McNair warned commissioners about last week. She also said it could lead to delays in airport work.

''It would drive out of business one of the few successful black female-owned businesses in South Florida,'' McNair said last week.

McNair did not attend today's meeting. Her attorney, Carlos Reyes, said after the vote that McNair will consider her legal options, including a lawsuit for breach of contract.

Reyes said about half of McNair's 43 employees will be laid off. TLMC will submit a claim for work already performed which will likely be less than $200,000.

Broward hired TLMC Enterprises to build an airport administration building and other airport projects. Before granting the contract, commissioners were told by McNair that she didn't know about allegations that her husband, Jacques Evens Thermilus, gave $100,000 in kickbacks to Teele.

But several commissioners said McNair lied because she told a different story several months earlier to state investigators. She told police that Teele came to her home to collect stacks of money from her husband.

''Psycho' is coming over to pick up the money,'' McNair said her husband told her.

Teele, a former Miami city commissioner, committed suicide in July in the lobby of The Herald's Miami office.

McNair told commissioners last week that she assumed the money her husband kept at home was connected to one of Teele's campaigns.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press