AN INTERESTING WRINKLE.
"Strike Three for Pendergast?"
Perhaps not. I write this not to settle anything, but to suggest that
there are still questions needing answers.
Last November 15, Peter Pendergast,
former general counsel for the Mass Turnpike Authority, wrote an
op-ed piece for the Boston Globe charging that much-needed
reforms of the Big Dig never took place because, in 2001,
then-governor Jane Swift agreed with Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff not
to pursue such a course of action.
Instead, Pendergast wrote, she
fired authority members Christy Mihos and Jordan Levy, and installed
Matt Amorello as the chairman. Among other things, Pendergast charged
that Swift walked away from a demand by the authority that
Bechtel/Parsons pay $250 million in "reparations" for its alleged
mismanagement of the project.
Unfortunately, Pendergast's column
has disappeared into the Globe's paid archives. But here is a
before Swift's firings, her office had asked about purported plans
by the Turnpike Board to terminate Bechtel/Parsons for
mismanagement. Just after 7 a.m. on Oct. 9, Turnpike CEO Richard
Capka called me at home. Capka said he had just spoken to Steve
Crosby, Swift's secretary of administration and finance, who had
told him that Bechtel had contacted Swift at her home in North
Adams and voiced concerns that the Turnpike Board would terminate
the company at the board's meeting two days later. As general
counsel, I informed Capka that I had no knowledge of such a
One day later,
Swift again intervened on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons and undermined
the Turnpike Authority's ongoing negotiations with the company.
The negotiations included issues of restructuring of Big Dig
management, and a demand for reparations from Bechtel/Parsons in
the amount of $250 million.
Within days, Swift, Crosby, and a
third official, Jack Lemley, wrote letters to the Globe
charging that Pendergast had his facts wrong. Among other things,
I never had any
conversation with any Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff employee on any
matter, including the company's work as construction manager for
the Big Dig.
I never informed Steve Crosby or
any other individual that I had such a conversation.
I never intervened on behalf of
Bechtel/Parsons in any negotiations with the Turnpike
I never instructed or directed
in any way any member of the governor's staff or any other
individual to intervene on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons in any
Turnpike Authority negotiations. Indeed, my instructions to my
staff were to the contrary.
Here is an excerpt from
Acting Governor Swift
never called me on Oct. 9, 2001 - or any other time - to inquire
about the Turnpike Board's considering terminating the contract of
Bechtel/Parsons to oversee the Big Dig.
- I did not call or speak to
project manager Richard Capka early on the morning of Oct. 9. And
I never spoke to him to question him about the Turnpike board's
terminating the company.
- Neither Governor Swift not
anyone else from her office met with Bechtel/Parsons on Oct. 9 to
discuss its possible termination.
- I was not asked by Swift to
take any action on behalf of, at the behest of, or in the interest
of Bechtel/Parsons; nor did I take any action on my own
Pendergast falsely alleges that
I - either on my own or at Swift's behest - intervened on behalf
of Bechtel/Parsons to protect the company from "management reform"
initiatives by the Turnpike Authority board.
Lemley offers a related
At the time, I looked at
Pendergast's piece and the three letters and wrote an item wondering
whether Pendergast's op-ed should have been more carefully vetted.
"Strike Three for Pendergast?" was the headline I stuck on the item,
in which I concluded: "The Pendergast column - how much of it is
true, how much isn't, what sort of editing it went through - would be
an excellent topic" for the Globe's ombudsman.
But the questions raised still
haven't been answered. Last Friday, Ann Donlan reported
in the Boston Herald on Swift's testimony in a lawsuit brought
by Mihos over the firing. Donlan dwelled largely on Swift's odd
practice of identifying herself as "Winthrop Murray Crane" in her
e-mail correspondence. But there was also this:
Swift testified that she
was unaware that the president and CEO of Bechtel Group Inc.,
Adrian Zaccaria, had written her an Oct. 8, 2001, letter to
express concern that the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority was
considering canceling the project manager's contract because of
The Turnpike, according to
information in the deposition, had demanded $250 million in
"reparations" from the company.
Stephen P. Crosby, Swift's
secretary of administration and finance, met privately with
Bechtel representatives. "I didn't become aware of that meeting
until after the fact," Swift testified.
Crosby, who could not be reached
for comment, "believed that Bechtel might leave, and that would
jeopardize the financing and orderly management of the project,"
There's also old evidence that tends to support Pendergast's
version of events. On February 11, 2003, long before Pendergast's
op-ed ran, Globe reporters Raphael Lewis and Sean Murphy
Turnpike Authority's lawyers set up two sessions to negotiate a
possible refund with Bechtel on Oct. 9, 2001, one to take place at
9 a.m., the other at 3 p.m. The lawyers were demanding tens of
millions of dollars, enough to put off toll hikes needed to pay
down Big Dig debts. Top Bechtel executives flew in with a
surprising offer: The company would give the state up to $50
million, according to two people who attended the first
Authority lawyers said they left the morning meeting hopeful that
at last Bechtel would pay for some of its mistakes.
What they did
not know was that Bechtel's newly hired lobbyist, Andrew Paven,
had been busy working his connections with the state's political
elite. Paven arranged for Bechtel executives to go directly from
the first negotiating session into a meeting with Acting Governor
Jane M. Swift's chief of staff and the secretary of administration
and finance [presumably Crosby, though he is not named in the
bargaining session with the Turnpike lawyers never took place.
After sitting down with Swift's two top aides, Bechtel rescinded
its offer to refund to the state up to $50 million. The two aides
Look, I have no
idea what to make of this. What's clear, though, is that when
Pendergast leveled his accusations against Swift and Crosby last
November, there was more evidence to support his charges than was
immediately apparent. The denials issued by Swift and Crosby may well
be sincere, but the letter from Zaccaria (which I've read in its
entirety), as well as the earlier Globe piece, suggest there
are other facts that need to be considered as well.
At the very least,
Pendergast may have gotten an unfair rap in some quarters - including