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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, December 3, 2005

Rail feud: 'Where's the beef?'

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Staff Writer

Mayor Mufi Hannemann yesterday called questions about the awarding of a city consultant contract a delaying tactic by an opponent of rail transit.

"Where's the beef?" Hannemann asked. "Where are his specific charges?"

He said easing traffic is too important an issue to get bogged down.

The debate heated up this week with City Councilman Charles Djou requesting a federal investigation into the city administration's award of a $9.7 million contract to Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc. for a mass transit study.

Djou responded that he opposed the tax increase to pay for the mass transit project, but isn't opposed to rail transit itself.

Hannemann dismissed Djou's argument as designed to help a friend and political supporter, Communications Pacific chief executive officer Kitty Lagareta.

Lagareta's firm was working with the Parsons firm before the council voted to go forward with the increase in the general excise tax to pay for the transit system. But after the council approved the project and the administration awarded the contract, Communications Pacific's role was significantly reduced.

Lagareta said the contract isn't that lucrative or important to her in itself, but that she is standing on the principle that switching subcontractors makes a sham out of the procurement process.

"I am standing firm that something wasn't right here, and I want it fixed," Lagareta said.

Instead, an engineering firm led by Joe Pickard was given a large role. Pickard, president of Community Planning and Engineering Inc., was chairman of Hannemann's transition team, which helped select the top executives for the city administration.

Hannemann said Pickard's company was chosen because of his expertise. He said Pickard is a friend who has contributed to his campaign, but has also contributed to the campaigns of Djou and Gov. Linda Lingle.

Lagareta is a close friend and adviser to Lingle. But Lagareta said that relationship makes her avoid most political contracts and any appearance of favoritism.

On Thursday, U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie accused Djou of political grandstanding.

Yesterday, city officials provided a copy of a July 29 e-mail from then-Parsons project manager Richard Page to the subcontractors, including Lagareta's company, that said: "Please remember that until the contract is signed, the selection of our team of consultants is not 'official.' "

Lagareta said she does not remember that e-mail.

Hannemann said Djou was acting as Lagareta's "lackey" in raising questions without any proof.

Lagareta said that label and Abercrombie's calling Djou a kid are "absolutely disgusting" and a disservice to Djou. "I don't think he's anybody's fool," she said.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com.