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Numerous falsehoods in column about Big Dig

I WAS STUNNED to read a dishonest, self-serving opinion piece written by former Turnpike Authority general counsel Peter Pendergast ("What went wrong at the Big Dig," op ed, Nov. 15) that contained many false statements:

* Acting Governor Swift never called me on Oct. 9, 2001 -- or any other time -- to inquire about the Turnpike Board's considering terminating the contract of Bechtel/Parsons to oversee the Big Dig.

* I did not call or speak to project manager Richard Capka early on the morning of Oct. 9. And I never spoke to him to question him about the Turnpike board's terminating the company.

* Neither Governor Swift not anyone else from her office met with Bechtel/Parsons on Oct. 9 to discuss its possible termination.

* I was not asked by Swift to take any action on behalf of, at the behest of, or in the interest of Bechtel/Parsons; nor did I take any action on my own volition.

Pendergast falsely alleges that I -- either on my own or at Swift's behest -- intervened on behalf of Bechtel/Parsons to protect the company from "management reform" initiatives by the Turnpike Authority board. In fact, with the knowledge and support of Swift, the following occurred:

I was asked twice -- once by Governor Cellucci and once by Swift -- to meet with the Turnpike Authority's vice chairman, Christy Mihos, to hear his concerns and review evidence of wrongdoing at the authority. On one occasion Mihos never returned my call; on the other, he never appeared at a meeting with Turnpike staff and the governor's chief of staff.

When I agreed to meet with Bechtel/Parsons in early October 2001, we never discussed the issue of possible termination by the Turnpike board. We did, however, discuss my deep frustration over the continuing escalation of costs.

As we began to consider negotiations with Bechtel/Parsons to determine fault for cost overruns and to make recovery for that fault, I urged Capka to see if the Army Corps of Engineers could replace Bechtel/Parsons in order to strengthen our negotiating position.

Pendergast also claims that the effort to hire another "owner's engineer to oversee the otherwise unsupervised Bechtel/Parsons" was thwarted by Swift's appointment of Matt Amorello as Turnpike chairman. In fact, Capka and Amorello collaborated to retain the National Academy of Sciences to determine whether Bechtel/Parsons was managing the project up to industry standards. That review led to a generally favorable judgment on Bechtel/Parsons's oversight, and the conclusion that another overseer was unnecessary.

I'm not surprised that Pendergast would submit such a mendacious screed, but I am shocked that the Globe would publish it.

The writer is the former administration and finance secretary for Acting Governor Swift. 

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