News Article - December 10 2006

Airport's contracts still under federal scrutiny
  Retail at Philadelphia International Airport may have entered a gilded age, but federal agents continue to investigate suspected pay-to-play corruption there. The current FBI and IRS investigation is related to minority business contracts held by airport shops, people familiar with the matter said. Since 2004, there have been three rounds of indictments related to airport contracts - about concessions, advertising and maintenance.

   The latest charges came last month when Mayor Street's brother, Milton, was indicted on fraud and corruption charges for an allegedly sham consulting contract for airport maintenance. "The investigation at the airport continues," U.S. Attorney Patrick L. Meehan said during the news conference announcing the indictment. He did not elaborate.

   During its wide-ranging City Hall corruption probe, the FBI placed wiretaps on the phones of power broker Ronald A. White and senior airport official James Tyrrell. White was charged with corruption, some of it related to airport concessions, but he died before trial. Tyrrell has not been charged with any wrongdoing. The focus of the investigation is the federal program designed to help disadvantaged business owners - minorities, women and the disabled - get a fair share of airport contracts. Rich minorities with political connections have abused the program here and at other airports.

   In some cases, the minorities have lent little more than their name, ethnic status and political sway - and have done little work. As examples, authorities cite the Milton Street situation and a soda contract won by White's mistress, Janice Knight. According to court testimony, Knight did little more than serve as the middle man for an airport vendor, simply faxing invoices back and forth.

Source - Philadelphia Inquirer