The U.S. Naval Academy's former public works office violated Navy regulations by ordering subordinates to justify awarding a $961,000 construction contract that was 55 percent above a government estimate, his former assistant has told a federal jury.
Cmdr. Robert C. Parsons testified yesterday that his former boss, Capt. James E. Weston, also ordered him and other academy public works officials to skirt regulations to purchase expensive, special carpet for the academy's football locker room and coaches' quarters.
Weston also ordered him to "find a way" to award an architectural contract to one of the captain's friends for expansion of the Bancroft Hall dormitory, Parsons said.
The commander, who is now stationed in Norfolk, Va., said he went along with some of Weston's questionable demands in the beginning, after he was told they "would not happen again."
But Parsons said he saw "a pattern" of behavior by Weston that violated contracting regulations, feared that some of the captain's actions may have violated federal laws, and eventually noticed that staffers and division directors were openly discussing Weston's behavior.
At that point, nearing the end of his own tour at the academy, Parsons said, he sought out an assistant to the superintendent and related his concerns about Weston.
"I received a call the next day," Parsons testified. "I was told that no appointment [with the superintendent] would be necessary."
By then, sources said, Weston was already under federal investigation.
Weston, now retired, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on conspiracy, bribery and obstruction-of-justice charges tied to alleged corruption during his 1985-1989 tour at the academy.
The government contends that he steered contracts to friends; accepted $34,000 in illegal gratuities from Carroll Dunton, an Annapolis contractor who did millions of dollars worth of work at the academy during Weston's tenure there; and tried to obstruct a grand jury investigation of his activities.
The $961,000 contract, a focal point of the criminal charges, was awarded to Dunton Contracting Inc., the lone bidder, for heating, ventilation and air conditioning work on the Rickover Hall classroom building in 1986. Navy officials had estimated the job at $619,000.
Parsons testified that regulations mandate a bid analysis by academy public works personnel whenever a low bid exceeds the Navy's estimate by more than 15 percent.
He said Weston told him and other subordinates to perform the analysis, but ordered them to "indicate whatever reason you think is good enough, just come up with the conclusion that the bid is fair and reasonable" to justify awarding the contract to Dunton.
Weston made the decision to award the contract, and signed the award papers, even though the contract could have been negotiated for a lower figure, Parsons said.
Parsons also testified that he bent contracting regulations, on direct orders from Weston, for the locker room carpeting and the Bancroft Hall architectural work even though he told the captain that neither project was "legitimate."
Parsons said Weston wanted the Bancroft Hall additions placed on a "fast track" for construction because "they would be a personal monument to him at the academy."