Djou asks U.S. review of $9.7M city contract
CITY Councilman Charles Djou wants the federal government to investigate whether there was any "hanky-panky" when the city awarded a $9.7 million contract to study mass transit options for Honolulu.
"We've got to do it right. ... Let's make sure that when we undertake this project, we're not going out and wasting taxpayer money," Djou said.
Djou asked U.S. Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead to probe the city's awarding of the contract to Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas. The councilman said the city's inability to justify "its actions leads me to believe the contract award violates governing procurement and federal grant laws."
Part of the cost of the study, $7.6 million, is being paid for by the federal government.
Djou's request for an investigation stems partly from a complaint by two public relations executives whose roles as subcontractors in the study were reduced in favor of a supporter of Mayor Mufi Hannemann.
Djou said that he is asking the inspector general to recommend "corrective actions" if the investigation turns up errors in how the contract was handled. He said the remedies could range from the city having to rebid the contract to the DOT pulling the federal funding.
A Hannemann spokesman said the contract award is legal.
"It's unfortunate that Councilmember Djou has taken it upon himself to call for an unneeded and unnecessary investigation into a legally awarded and totally above-board city contract," spokesman Bill Brennan said in a written response.
Brennan said that Djou is still upset that he was unable to "drum up" opposition to defeat the tax increase to pay for a new transit system. "There is no dark cloud, no inappropriate behavior, no possible corrupt conduct hanging over any part of the process by either the city nor contractor Parsons Brinckerhoff," Brennan said.
Djou said he is asking for an investigation into the contracting process, but stressed that he is not alleging political corruption against the mayor.
Two Hawaii public relations executives -- Kitty Lagareta and Ruth Limtiaco -- were part of the original team assembled by Parsons Brinckerhoff to assist the traffic engineering firm in submitting a bid to the city for the contract. The two executives raised questions when a company headed by Hannemann's political supporter and friend Joe Pickard was added to the list of subconsultants without being part of the bid process.
Lagareta, chief executive of Communications Pacific, and Limtiaco, president of the Limtiaco Co., have said they still have not been told why the scope of their work was reduced in favor of Pickard's Community Planning and Engineering. The contract lists $860,000 to Community Planning and Engineering, while Lagareta's and Limtiaco's companies were each going to receive $25,000. Lagareta and Limtiaco have since dropped out of the team.
"I can only assume that we have not received an explanation because there is, in fact, no justifiable explanation," Limtiaco said.
Hannemann denied that his friendship or politics played a role in Pickard being considered for the work. Pickard has said that he -- and not the city -- approached Parsons Brinckerhoff about joining the team.