Feds clear city over transit plan
Councilman Charles Djou had asked for an investigation into city procurement actions
The Federal Transit Administration has determined that the city did not violate the federal procurement code when substituting a public relations subcontractor for others to examine mass transit alternatives. The FTA was responding to a complaint filed last year by City Councilman Charles Djou to the U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general.
Djou asked for an investigation after he said the city failed to adequately explain to him how a political supporter of Mayor Mufi Hannemann's became a subcontractor.
In a copy of a memo sent to the acting inspector general from FTA Deputy Administrator Sandra Bushue, the FTA concluded that it could not find evidence that "political connections" led to the change in subcontractors.
Instead, the FTA determined, "The substitution of the subcontractors was for the purpose of enlisting a subcontractor deemed to have necessary skills and resources to accomplish (the city's) goals for robust community outreach."
The inquiry centered around allegations that city officials directed Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc., the primary contractor, to include Community Planning and Engineering Inc. as a subconsultant for the "public involvement" portion of the project although the company was not evaluated in the selection process. As a result, the roles of other subcontractors, including Communications Pacific, was reduced.
Community Planning is headed by Joe Pickard, a friend and political supporter of the mayor.
Communications Pacific, whose president is Kitty Lagareta, sued in state court over what it contended were state procurement law violations, but the lawsuit was dismissed because a state judge found that the procurement law gave no avenue of redress for subcontractors. The firm has since appealed the decision.
But because of concerns raised by the inspector general and the "significant level of federal investment contemplated by the proposed Honolulu High Capacity Transit Improvements," the FTA said it will identify the city for a procurement system review next fiscal year.
Djou said he will accept the FTA decision.
"On one level the reason I filed the complaint is because I thought some legitimate questions were being raised, and I thought someone should review it," Djou said. "The federal government has reviewed it, and I accept it. I think the process works."
But Djou said he thought the FTA could have done "a little bit more thorough review" because it based its decision on an explanation provided by the city administration.
Djou said he is awaiting the final decision, which he expects any time.
"The investigation was unneeded and uncalled for, and was a waste of time, energy and taxpayer money to accommodate Councilmember Djou's political grandstanding," city spokesman Bill Brennan said. "It is time for Councilmember Djou to move on and work with, not against, the administration and the residents of Honolulu for solutions to traffic congestion and gridlock, our island's No. 1 quality-of-life issue."
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie was scheduled to hold a news conference today on the FTA report. In December, Abercrombie accused Djou of trying to sabotage the mass transit project with his inquiry.