- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Boeing Co.’s former chief financial officer pleaded guilty yesterday to illegally hiring a top Air Force procurement officer who admitted giving the company preferential treatment on a $23 billion tanker contract.

Michael Sears, 57, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting illegal employment negotiations.

Sears faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 21, but his lawyer, James Streicker, estimated that under federal sentencing guidelines, Sears most likely faces, at worst, a prison term of zero to six months.

Sears admitted that he offered Darleen Druyun, 56, of Vienna, Va., who was one of the Air Force’s top contract officers, a six-figure executive position at Boeing while she was reviewing whether Boeing should get a $23 billion contract to provide new refueling tankers to the Air Force.

Druyun, who was sentenced in October to nine months in prison, has admitted that she provided an inflated price to Boeing on the contract as “a parting gift” and that she had helped Boeing obtain inflated deals on previous contracts, while intervening to get her daughter a job at the company and later to keep her from being fired by Boeing for poor performance.

Court records indicate that her daughter served as an intermediary in the summer and fall of 2002 for job negotiations.

Druyun and Sears met to discuss the job at the Orlando International Airport on Oct. 17, 2002, while Druyun still had significant input into the tanker contract.

That contract since has been nullified, and the Pentagon has asked Congress to investigate a wide range of contracts in which Druyun was involved.

Druyun, at first, had insisted that she had provided no substantive help to Boeing even as she violated the government’s conflict-of-interest laws, but later admitted that she gave Boeing favorable terms after she failed a lie-detector test that was a requirement of her plea bargain.

In a statement of facts released yesterday, Sears admitted that in 2000 he helped Druyun’s daughter get a job with Boeing in response to Druyun’s requests. He also acknowledged that he discussed a $250,000-a-year executive job with Druyun, even though she had told him that such discussions violated conflict-of-interest rules.

Sears did not confirm or deny whether Druyun actually gave Boeing a sweetheart deal on the tanker contract.

Boeing spokesman Doug Kennett said there is “no evidence to back up” Druyun’s assertion that she provided a sweetheart deal and said much of the final work on the tanker contract occurred after Druyun had left for Boeing in January 2003.

Boeing’s senior vice president and general counsel, Doug Bain, said the company, which fired both Sears and Druyun last year after conducting an internal investigation, will continue to cooperate with the federal investigation.

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