Port of Houston mum ahead of meeting

May 24, 2011 3:27:03 PM PDT
Expect a showdown Tuesday at the Houston Port Commission. Its' the first meeting in the wake of 13 Undercover revelations, and suddenly the Port is refusing to answer many of our new questions about the chairman and his ties to a Port vendor.

"I have an almost full-time, non-paying job. I serve on several other boards. I have to make a living. I got two teenage kids," Houston Port chairman Jim Edmonds said.

But as busy as he is, Jim Edmonds wants to hold on to that non-paying job as chairman of Houston's Port Commission. He's been in charge at the Port for more than a decade.

"I believe he has a significant conflict of interest that has to be addressed," Houston Mayor Annise Parker said.

After the mayor's ultimatum last week, Edmonds issued a written statement, announcing that potential conflict was over.

"My AECOM contract was for a specified time period and has ended," the statement said in part.

But the Port chairman says he's done answering our questions about AECOM, like how long was he on a Port vendor's payroll, how much was he paid and did the Libyan connection play a role?

"The nexus between Libya and AECOM and the Port and the chairman raises lots of questions," Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said.

That's because AECOM has up to half a billion dollars in business with Libya and for the last two years, Edmonds has steered the Port to become consultants on Libya's Ports.

We've told you about that 2009 Saharan vacation Edmonds took with executives of AECOM during a joint trip to Libya. They paid.

The Port of Houston later agreed to a major study of Libya's Ports, while a brand new cruise terminal here sat empty.

Remember September 24, 2009? Moammar Gadhafi's rambling speech attacking the US and UN? That same day, Edmonds directs a Port official to huddle with AECOM. Their recommendation "let the dust settle in Washington" before they embark on a joint campaign to help Libyan officials get U.S. visas quicker.

February 2010, the Port signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Libya, and there's no record the Port Commission voted on the deal.

And of course in January that now-famous photo-op with Edmonds and Gadhafi's military commander son, who was given a tour of the Port.

"They may not have been and that'd be my fault if they weren't," he replied.

Who asked for the courtesy to Gadhafi? AECOM.

But Jim Edmonds isn't the only Port official under fire.

Two Port Commissioners want to talk about the continued employment of Port president Alec Dreyer amidst questions about a catered trip on the Port boat and why a document detailing who requested the trip was changed. Dreyer has denied any involvement in that.

"I think Alec Dreyer really needs a better answer for what happened there," Emmett said.

It should be a meeting full of fireworks. We'll share the answers with you.


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