- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2006

The Federal Highway Administration is barring an engineering company from competing for federal contracts because of its role in a D.C. government bribery scandal that sent a high-ranking city transportation official to prison.

New York-based Dunn Engineering Associates, a related firm and the company’s top executives can no longer take part in or compete for federal highway jobs.

The highway administration suspended the company from federally funded projects June 27.

A spokesman for the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation said Tuesday the suspension is pending the outcome of formal debarment hearings.

The sanction against the company comes more than one year after Dunn Engineering pleaded guilty in April 2005 in federal court in the District to giving gratuities to Wilhelm DerMinassian, former associate director of the city’s transportation department.

In a plea deal with federal prosecutors, Dunn Engineering admitted giving $1,348.91 in hotel bills to DerMinassian.

DerMinassian sought to have Dunn Engineering pay his hotel bills so he could keep a travel advance that the District had given him.

He was sentenced last year to more than two years in prison and $100,000 in fines after pleading guilty to wire fraud and other charges.

DerMinassian also was charged with accepting about $20,000 in cash and gifts, including free car-repair work, from another contracting company he oversaw.

Dunn Engineering had worked with the city’s transportation department from 2001 to 2003 on a $17.5 million contract to reduce gridlock by improving the District’s traffic-light system.

The company agreed to pay $75,000 in fines to settle federal criminal charges against the firm. No company officials were charged in the case.

Dunn Engineering’s president, Walter Dunn, did not return phone messages.

The D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement also has suspended the company in the aftermath of the bribery scandal.

Nathan Francis, chairman of the District’s Debarment and Suspension Panel, told the company in a letter this month that the proposed sanction is based on its guilty plea in the bribery case.

The company’s plea provides “a sufficient indication of its lack of business integrity and is sufficiently serious and compelling as to affect its responsibility as a D.C. government contractor,” Mr. Francis wrote in a May 2 letter to Mr. Dunn.

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