Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Int'l Airport Deal May Be Killed

Construction work planned at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport by a Pembroke Park construction firm at the center of the case against the late Arthur E. Teele Jr. has been put on hold by the county and could be canceled.

County Aviation Director Tom Jargiello issued a stop-work order Aug. 2 on the $8 million contract, which the county commissioners will reconsider today.

The company, TLMC Enterprises, was to build a new airport administration building and complete several other airport projects.

Several commissioners, including John Rodstrom, have said they believe TLMC owner Tammy L. McNair lied when she was questioned May 24 by the commissioners about her company's involvement with Teele. Rodstrom, who was among the slim 5-4 majority who voted for the contract, has indicated he now intends to vote to terminate the contract.

Teele, a former Miami city commissioner, committed suicide July 27 in The Herald's lobby in Miami. In December, a state grand jury indicted Teele on corruption charges that arose during a two-year investigation of Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency, which Teele once chaired.

The probe centered on four largely unused parking lots that were built by TLMC. Teele was alleged to have taken kickbacks from McNair's husband, Jacques Evens Thermilus.

McNair was the firm's registered owner, but her husband was once listed as its chief of operations. Thermilus, caught in an unrelated investigation, cooperated with authorities and was to have been the state's star witness against Teele.

TLMC was the low bidder on the airport contract, but a majority of the county's nine-member commission now looks ready to terminate that contract.

County Liability

Commissioners will consider a number of possible ways to get out of the contract with little, if any, liability, several commissioners told The Herald.

But TLMC's high-powered attorney, Carlos J. Reyes, warned he will consider legal action.

''The stop-work order threatens TLMC with tremendous damages,'' Reyes said in a recent letter to a county representative. He declined further comment on Monday.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion Jr., a McNair supporter, was threatening to up the ante for the county if the commission scraps TLMC's contract. Eggelletion said he will seek to bar two other companies, Houston-based Fisk Electrical Corp. and Fort Lauderdale-based SeaEscape, from participating in county contracts.

''If we are going to be the moral police, we ought to be fair, equitable and consistent,'' Eggelletion said.

Two executives of Fisk, a subcontractor at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, were charged this year along with Teele in a conspiracy to defraud Miami-Dade County. According to the indictment, Teele served as a consultant who steered Fisk to a front company that allowed Fisk to qualify for and win about $20 million in set-aside contracts at Miami International Airport.

In Broward, Fisk has earned millions handling electrical work on various airport projects for general contractors.

SeaEscape runs one casino ship out of Port Everglades. Company owners Douglas R. Baetz and Glenn M. Gallant are on trial in federal court in Denver for wire and securities fraud and money laundering. SeaEscape officials have said the company is not involved in the criminal case.

Broward Aviation Director Jargiello said in an interview that he ordered TLMC to stop work on Aug. 2 -- the same day a story about the controversy involving TLMC and McNair appeared in The Herald. Jargiello said he acted on his own.

'Best Interest'

''I thought it was in the best interest of the county,'' Jargiello said. ''It was really a matter of holding the contract in abeyance and not allow it to go forward until the commission had the opportunity to reconsider.''

In her testimony before the commission, McNair said she knew nothing about the criminal charges in Miami-Dade County alleging that her husband gave upward of $100,000 in kickbacks to Teele.

But commissioners later learned that McNair gave a statement to police five months earlier in which she describes a visit by Teele to her Miami Beach home to collect money from her husband. In 1999, she said, she saw ''two stacks of money wrapped in a rubber band on the bed'' in her bedroom.

' 'Psycho' is coming over to pick up the money,'' McNair said her husband told her. She told authorities that ''Psycho'' was Thermilus' nickname for Teele.

McNair went on to explain how she fetched a shopping bag with handles for her husband. ''NcNair remembers Teele had the bag in his hand and the money on the bed was now missing,'' her statement said.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press