Charleston airport chairman to investigate contractor incident
A whodunit playing out at Charleston International Airport almost wound up in the hands of law enforcement Thursday.
At issue is an effort to determine the identities of Charleston County Aviation Authority members who reportedly tried to steer construction work to a specific company as part of the $200 million redevelopment of the passenger terminal.
Board member Mallory Factor made a motion at the airport authority meeting for the airport’s police chief to investigate the incident because he said board members should be “beyond reproach.”
But board Chairman Andy Savage said bringing in the police was premature.
The reason: The Charleston defense lawyer is conducting his own investigation.
Savage said he will issue a report once his probe is completed. The board quickly tabled the motion.
No one on the Aviation Authority asked the names of the board members involved. Repeated attempts by The Post and Courier to determine their identities have been unsuccessful.
On Thursday, Savage asked a representative of Michael Baker Corp., the firm hired to oversee management of the terminal project, “Are the recommendations Baker got from individual board members included in your proposal?”
Ken Burger of Michael Baker responded, “Yes.” He added that the firm would not recommend the subcontractor if it didn’t think it could do the work.
The issue has delayed the airport’s hiring of a firm to handle construction administration and inspection work as the terminal’s massive makeover progresses over the next two years. It also threatens to slow down the entire project, said Bill New, deputy director of airports.
Columbia-based Michael Baker has submitted a bid of $4.3 million for the inspection work.
The bid included one or possibly more subcontractors that had been recommended by unidentified board members, Burger said Thursday. Bob Probst, also of Michael Baker Corp., said the same on March 11 during an airport committee meeting.
Probst, when pressed publicly by committee members that day, said he had been contacted by “a couple” of board members to add specific subcontractors in the bid.
He was asked about one subcontractor, identified in a document as Trident Construction LLC of North Charleston, that Michael Baker Corp. submitted in its bid.
“A couple of members of this authority said they would certainly recommend that firm,” Probst said March 11.
A Trident Construction representative said the firm was not contacted by any board members but by a member of Michael Baker Corp.
“Nobody from the airport authority has contacted us,” Chappy McKay of Trident Construction said in an interview last week.
As chairman of the airport board, Savage has pledged more transparency. He also has said he is opposed to board members interacting with contractors or vendors unless it’s in a public forum.
The other firm competing against Michael Baker Corp. for the contract is Fentress Architects of Colorado. It is bidding $9.1 million. Its bid is higher because it includes other services that Michael Baker’s does not.
After more than two hours of discussion, the Aviation Authority tabled the issue and sent it back to a committee for further review.
A meeting date has not been set.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.