Witchita's Choice for Airport Work Has Troublesome Past

The firm that Wichita city staff has selected to manage the building of a new airport terminal is part of a network of companies involved in an ongoing federal and state corruption investigation at Los Angeles International Airport


The firm that Wichita city staff has selected to manage the building of a new airport terminal is part of a network of companies involved in an ongoing federal and state corruption investigation at Los Angeles International Airport.

Until they were contacted by The Eagle, officials with the city of Wichita didn't know the company was linked to the probe, in which investigators seek to find whether political donations affected millions of dollars in construction contracts at LAX.

"Sounds serious," said City Manager George Kolb when he learned of the investigation. "It could change our recommendation."

Kolb headed the committee that selected DMJM Aviation, a division of Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp., as the most qualified applicant to oversee the $150 million project to replace the 50-year-old main terminal at Mid-Continent Airport.

A company official told The Eagle that the Los Angeles investigation has no bearing on the Wichita contract.

The city staff has negotiated a tentative contract with the company. That contract is being reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration and eventually will come before the City Council for approval.

DMJM Aviation is one of 13 operating units of AECOM, which has 18,000 employees worldwide and $2 billion in annual revenue.

Raymond Holdsworth has been president of AECOM since 2000. For seven years prior to that, he was president of Daniel, Mann, Johnson & Mendenhall, better known as DMJM.

The Eagle found that, in addition to the Los Angeles investigation, DMJM-related companies have been involved in at least three other ethical issues in the past five years, including:

A federal trial scheduled for June 21 on allegations that DMJM officials falsified reports in an effort to obtain $21 million in federal earthquake-relief funds to rebuild an abandoned apartment building at a California state university.

A 2000 rebuke by the House Ethics Committee against then-Rep. E.G. "Bud" Shuster, R-Pa., who improperly accepted payments from DMJM and from a billboard trade group for a Caribbean family vacation.

A 2004 New York State Ethics Commission finding that a New York City subway construction manager violated state law by accepting a $2,500 party ticket, golf and a dinner from DMJM+Harris, an AECOM company.

This has raised concerns among some Wichita City Council members about whether they should do business with DMJM Aviation.

"Frankly, it makes me sick," said council member Jim Skelton. "Who in their right mind would do business with somebody who has repeatedly violated ethical and moral standards across the country? We should have nothing to do with them if that's the case.

"If these (cases) are substantiated by city staff, we should run from them."

Inquiries to Florida-based DMJM Aviation were referred to a spokeswoman with AECOM in Los Angeles.

Alexandra Spencer said the company would not respond to questions about individual cases, but did issue a statement to The Eagle on behalf of DMJM Aviation.

"DMJM Aviation was selected for this (Wichita) project based on its extensive experience in the industry and superior performance on aviation related projects," the statement said. "Yes, a few of our sister companies have been mentioned in relation to the matters you asked about. However, it is noteworthy that they have not been the target of a criminal government investigation. Rather, in some of the matters, they were asked to assist the government in its investigation of public officials and they did so."

"None of the matters you asked about involve DMJM Aviation itself or are in any way related to our performance," the statement said.

While Spencer defined DMJM Aviation as an independent operating unit, Holdsworth has said in published reports that all of the AECOM companies work together.

In a June 2001 interview, Holdsworth said that when DMJM Aviation was selected to help American Airlines build its new gateway terminal in New York, five other AECOM companies were involved in the project.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend