- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 14, 2006

The District’s top procurement official has proposed banning a New York-based engineering firm from city contracts because of its role in a bribery scandal that sent a high-ranking D.C. transportation official to prison.

Citing concern about a “lack of business integrity,” D.C. officials notified Dunn Engineering Associates about the possible sanction in a letter earlier this month. The letter was based on a recommendation from Herbert R. Tillery, interim chief procurement officer for the District.

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 move to ban Dunn Engineering comes a year after officials agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors investigating $1,348.91 in hotel bills that the company paid for a city transportation official.

Federal court records show Wilhelm Derminassian, former associate director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, sought to have Dunn Engineering pay his hotel bills so he could keep a travel advance that the District had given him.

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

That company’s identity is not disclosed in court records in Derminassian’s case. Derminassian 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.

Dunn Engineering agreed to pay $75,000 in criminal fines as part of its deal with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, according to the plea agreement.

However, no Dunn Engineering officials were charged in the investigation, which was led by the FBI and Justice Department.

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 company President Walter M. Dunn Jr.

Mr. Dunn did not return phone messages Friday.

The company’s Web site states Mr. Dunn founded the company in 1982, and it later won major contracts from the New York State Department of Transportation. The company says it has more than 100 employees.

It is not clear whether the company will challenge the proposed debarment. But the firm will remain suspended from new city contracts and subcontracts pending a decision in the case, according to city officials.

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