Officials of DMJM Aviation, the company selected for a $4.6 million contract to manage the building of a new $150 million terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, went before the City Council on Tuesday to defend themselves against ethics issues raised in a report by The Eagle.
During a council workshop meeting, DMJM Aviation president John O'Connor and vice president Lee Tillotson discussed the issues raised and defended the company's ethical record.
"We have an exemplary record," O'Connor said.
"It's important you all know we've never been convicted and never been charged."
He added that he tells his employees that if they were ever asked to do something that their "mother, father, spouse and children would be embarrassed about, don't do it."
In a May 8 article, The Eagle reported that DMJM Aviation was part of a network of companies involved in an ongoing state and federal investigation in California into allegations that political donations influenced contracts awarded at Los Angeles International Airport.
The allegations of "pay-to-play" contracting in Los Angeles led to the resignation of the president of the city's airport board last year and was a major issue in the recent mayoral campaign in Los Angeles, in which incumbent James Hahn was defeated.
AECOM Inc., DMJM Aviation's parent company, DMJM+Harris and DMJM H&N -- the sister firm with which DMJM Aviation is partnered in the Los Angeles airport project -- donated $50,000 to LA United, a political group formed by Hahn to fight a 2002 ballot measure that sought to split Los Angeles into two cities.
Later, the DMJM companies were awarded contracting work that had been taken away from URS Corp., which declined to donate to LA United.
O'Connor said there was no wrongdoing and that the donations were motivated by the company's desire to keep Los Angeles from splitting. "We have been strongly supportive of LA United," he said.
He said the competition for the contract was unrelated to the donations.
He also said that the company had cooperated with the investigation and did not think it was a target of the probe.
In another ongoing case, Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall, or DMJM, is alleged to have made false claims to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in an effort to obtain funding for a $21 million project to rebuild an abandoned apartment building at California State University, Northridge, after an earthquake in 1994.
The case is set for trial June 21.
"We will vigorously defend the lawsuit," O'Connor said.
He also said that officials from both FEMA and the university had filed statements that "absolved us of the allegations."
O'Connor also elaborated on two other cases raised in The Eagle report: ethics violations by a New York subway construction manager and by former U.S. Rep. E.G. "Bud" Shuster, R-Pa.
In the New York case, the subway manager was found to have violated New York state law by accepting a dinner ticket valued at $2,500 from AECOM's DMJM+Harris division.
O'Connor said the company made a $25,000 donation to purchase a table at a benefit dinner for the New York Transit Museum. The subway manager "joined us at our table," O'Connor said.
The company estimated the actual value of the dinner at $150 and considered the rest of the $2,500 a donation to the museum.
O'Connor said DMJM also cooperated in the investigation of Shuster, who in 2000 admitted to House Ethics Committee charges that he had improperly accepted payment from DMJM and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America for a 1995-96 Christmas-season trip to Puerto Rico.
At the time, one of DMJM's biggest projects was an urban train for the Puerto Rican government.
On Tuesday, O'Connor characterized it as a "fact-finding trip." The congressional report said it was primarily recreational.
City Council members appeared to be satisfied with the explanations they received Tuesday. Most of them thanked O'Connor and Tillotson for their candor.
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Wichita City Council members voted Tuesday to hire DMJM Aviation to oversee the development of a new $150 million terminal at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
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