Bechtel / Parsons seeks to block release of audits
Senate panel wants data on overbilling
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 4/4/2003
echtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff, the company managing the Big Dig, yesterday filed for an injunction in Suffolk Superior Court to stave off, at least temporarily, public release of federal audits that say the company overbilled the state by $31 million.
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The request for the injunction, which will be heard in court Tuesday, was filed only minutes before a deadline for release of the audits set by Sen. Marc Pacheco, chairman of the Post-Audit Committee.
Pacheco and the chairs of two other Senate committees grilled executives of Bechtel/Parsons at a legislative hearing Wednesday on their management of the project. They assured Pacheco the company would provide a copy of the audits to the committee "by the end of business" yesterday, or else say why they could not do so.
"Our position is that these are public documents and should be released publicly," said Pacheco, who learned in a Globe story this week of Bechtel/Parsons's refusal to release the documents.
The injunction seeks to legally prevent the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the Central Artery/Ted Williams Tunnel project, from releasing the audits. In recent months the Big Dig's chief counsel, Kurt Dettman, refused the Globe's request for the audits.
Dettman has cited Bechtel/Parsons's threat of suing the Turnpike Authority as a reason for not releasing the audits. But Michael Powers, Turnpike general counsel and Dettman's boss, yesterday told Pacheco he was prepared to release the audits when he learned of Bechtel/Parsons's move to seek an injunction.
"Our position is that the records go to the committee," Powers said. "And we will be in court on Tuesday fighting for their release."
Bechtel/Parsons says the audits contain proprietary and confidential information exempt from the public records law. They were done by a federal government agency responsible for auditing defense contractors such as Bechtel/Parsons and cover only the period through 1997. Other audits, covering 1997 forward, are underway.
"We will provide the Senate committee copies of the audits subject only to redaction of trade secrets, commercial and financial information, which any company or individual would seek to keep private," according to a statement released by the company.
This story ran on page A35 of the Boston Globe on 4/4/2003.
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