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Conflict inquiry trips up LAX bid

first_imgAIRPORT: Former city consultant and executive’s role in contract proposal is reportedly the subject of questioning. By Beth Barrett Staff Writer A San Francisco company bidding for work on a planned LAX parking facility has withdrawn amid questions of a potential conflict of interest between the firm and former airport executive director Lydia Kennard, the Daily News, a sister paper of the Daily Breeze, has learned. A URS spokesman said the company withdrew as a subcontractor on the LAX project “at the request of the primary contractor,” but insisted there was no conflict. “URS continues to believe there is absolutely no conflict of interest, that the law supports our view and the company has complied with all applicable statutes and guidelines.” The spokesman said the company is continuing to pursue a number of other contracts in the region, including a Palmdale airport project. The LA/Palmdale Regional Airport is run by Los Angeles World Airports, which also operates LAX. Kennard said she became a consultant for the city in early March and as such no longer was a public official. She also said she was not involved in any discussions about URS contracts or bidding. “It’s a huge stretch to suggest an implied conflict of interest,” Kennard said. She emphasized that talks with URS about a board appointment did not begin until after she resigned as Los Angeles World Airports’ executive director in late January. Kennard served two stints as LAWA’s executive director: from August 1999 to November 2003; and again from October 2005 through January. Kennard said the international company was careful to keep a “firewall” between her and any jobs it was doing in Los Angeles. She said the multibillion-dollar company with 30,000 employees around the world hired an outside counsel who reviewed the issue and concluded there was no conflict. Kennard said once the decision was made to drop out of the contract, there was no point in disclosing to the city the private decision-making information over her board appointment. Kennard was awarded the city consulting contract March 5, and had been paid about $53,000 with an additional $9,000 pending when she suspended it July 31, according to LAWA records. She gave up the consulting contract July 31, one day before being appointed to the URS board. In a July 31 letter announcing her decision to airport executives, Kennard said she was suspending her contract with LAWA “in an abundance of caution.” “Even though there is no apparent legal conflict with dual roles; I would never want there to be any perception of a conflict of interest in either role,” Kennard wrote. In the letter, she said she had sought advice from the city’s Ethics Commission and URS attorneys. The incident is the latest involving URS, which at one time was a primary contractor overseeing the LAX Master Plan, with contracts worth at least $22.4 million. URS is no longer involved in that contract. In late 2003, URS was at the center of controversy amid possible “pay to play” allegations when the District Attorney’s Office opened an inquiry into possible wrongdoing by Airport Commission members, including President Ted Stein, in the awarding of contracts for then-Mayor James Hahn’s $9.1 billion LAX modernization. The inquiry arose after the Los Angeles Business Journal reportedly found evidence that Stein sought political contributions from contractors, in one case tying the contract to a contribution to Hahn’s campaign against San Fernando Valley secession efforts. Stein ultimately stepped down from the commission, denying any wrongdoing. Although the District Attorney’s Office conducted a preliminary inquiry, no charges were brought. Kennard said that despite believing there was no conflict of interest, URS decided to drop the LAX project to avoid any potential negative publicity. “They don’t like their names in the paper in a negative way,” she said. “This is so ironic. The discussion was whether or not they should continue to fight the matter, and it wasn’t worth (it) to their reputation over not a lot of money. “It’s not worth the aggravation.” [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Kennard was a city consultant to Los Angeles International Airport when URS Corp. was talking with her about joining its board – which she did one day after leaving LAX. Rather than answer questions about that relationship, the global engineering design firm pulled its bid as a subcontractor. “Questions were raised about a potential conflict of interest, and URS was asked to provide information on their dealings with Ms. Kennard. They chose to walk rather than resolve those questions,” a city official said. Sources said officials questioned whether Kennard – as a city consultant working on airport business – was in a position to enrich the company as a member of its board of directors. Kennard was a city airports consultant from early March to July 31. On Aug. 1, she was appointed to the board of URS. Kennard said nothing improper was done and that the conflict of interest questions raised by the City Attorney’s Office were disputed by the company. last_img read more

Risk of water disruptions and discolouration in parts of Letterkenny

first_imgIrish Water has today warned that certain areas of Letterkenny may experience water issues due to new connection works.Works are scheduled to take place from 8am to 5pm this Wednesday, 27th November in Manor View, Fairgreen Park, Fernhill, Solomon’s Grove, Hunters Wood, Old Glencar Road, Glencar Road, Ard Ghlass, College Park, The Elms, Glenoughty Close, Ashleigh Close, College Farm Road, Glencar Road, Black’s Bridge, Long Lane and surrounding areas.Supply disruptions, low pressure and discolouration are all possible during this time. Homeowners are being advised to allow 2-3 hours after the estimated restoration time for your supply to fully return. Risk of water disruptions and discolouration in parts of Letterkenny was last modified: November 27th, 2019 by Rachel McLaughlinShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)last_img read more

SA find fuels ‘hobbit’ debate

first_imgProfessor Lee Berger of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand at work unearthing the remarkable small-bodied hominid fossils on the island of Palau. (Image courtesy the University of the Witwatersrand) One of the tiny Palau skulls, embedded in flowstone. (Image courtesy the University of the Witwatersrand) A comparison of a 2 900-year-old lower jaw (front) discovered in Palau in 2006 with a modern human female jaw shows the dramatic difference in size between the small-bodied early Palauans and average-sized modern humans. (Image courtesy Stephen Alvarez, National Geographic)Staff reporterAn international team of scientists led by South African researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg, have announced the discovery of an extinct population of small-bodied humans found on the island of Palau, Micronesia, an island in the Pacific Ocean.The study, announced on Tuesday 11 March and funded by the National Geographic Society, is published in the latest edition of the journal PLoS ONE.The fossil humans, which lived on the island between 1 400 and 3 000 years ago, have some, but not all, of the features found in the controversial Homo floresiensis “hobbit” fossils found on the island of Flores in Indonesia.The small-bodied H floresiensis finds have been the subject of fierce scientific controversy, with debate as to whether the tiny skeletal remains represent a new species of human or are simply the remains of a pathological individual with some type of genetic disorder such as microcephaly.The research team was led by Professor Lee Berger, a Wits palaeoanthropologist, with colleagues from Duke University and Rutgers University.“The Palauen fossils exhibit a surprising number of traits that were originally used to describe the hobbit as a unique species including, small body size, relatively large teeth, small faces and reduced chins,” says Berger, who discovered the fossils while vacationing in Palau in 2006.Major importanceThe fossils come from two caves in the picturesque Rock Islands of Palau, in the Pacific Ocean.“We were on a kayak excursion when a guide asked me if I wanted to see a cave with some old bones in it,” says Berger. “When I saw a tiny face, part of a fossil skull, I instinctively knew that they were of major importance. I initially thought it was one individual and of course the ‘Flores’ debate was raging at the time. I used my camera to focus on the tiny bones and snapped some shots so that I could study them in detail at a later stage.”After obtaining an emergency grant from the National Geographic’s Mission Programmes, Berger and a team of international scientists, including Wits students, returned to Palau a few weeks later. “What we found astounded our most experienced explorers, even the Palauen officials who accompanied us.”Bonita De Klerk, a PhD student at Wits, was one of the initial explorers and co-authors of the paper. “The cave where Berger had found the original fossils was literally filled with tens of individuals,” she says. “When excavated, the sand itself was practically made up of ground human bone. In a one metre-square by 50-centimetre-deep test pit, we recovered more than 1 200 fragments of human beings.”Studying the Palau fossils, De Klerk found individuals that were practically the same height as Flores. “They were as small as just over a metre,” she says. “One foot bone is actually almost the same size as the same foot bone of the famous Little Foot skeleton in Sterkfontein, and that’s very small.” Little Foot, an australopithecine early human ancestor dated to around 2.5-million years ago, is one of the many hominid specimens discovered in South Africa’s Cradle of Humankind world heritage site.The brains of the Palau humans were probably extremely small, at the very bottom or even below modern human variation. “However, they are not as small as the brains of the hobbits,” says De Klerk. “We have found some skulls but they are heavily embedded in flowstones and we cannot measure their brain size, only estimate it.”A second cave has revealed an equally large cache of bones, suggesting that the islands might be full of surprises. “Who knows what is out there?” Berger says. “It just demonstrates the great need for more exploration to be undertaken in these remote areas.”Rapid adaptationA fascinating aspect of the find is how quickly the island adaptations may have occurred. “Our fossils are among the oldest ever found on Palau and may indicate that all of these features evolved very quickly, possibly in just a few generations,” Berger says.“Palau is like a Galapagos for humans. There were at the time no large terrestrial animals so it is likely that the early Palauens had to survive on only near shore marine resources. While this island looks like Paradise these early people, who may have been stranded, were really living under a great deal of dietary stress.”The announcement of the Palau finds came only a week after the legitimacy of Flores as a unique species was again questioned. Australian researchers presented evidence that the unusual limb structure of H floresiensis, seen as crucial evidence of its unique status as a species, is remarkably similar to the limbs of people with a genetic disorders such as cretinism, which can also affect the structure of the skull.“When you put our two studies together it does make one wonder,” says Berger. “With their big teeth, small faces, reduced chins and small stature, it makes me wonder what a cretin or microcephalic would look like in the Palauen sample. Maybe not identical to, but perhaps a lot like the hobbit skeleton?”Berger and his colleagues intend to continue work on Palau and neighbouring islands as part of an international expedition to discover more fossils.Related articlesWorld heritage in South AfricaUseful linksUniversity of the WitwatersrandPLoS ONECradle of Humankindlast_img read more