Ex-aide takes the stand for Weston Defendant couldn't award pacts over estimate without OK, jury is told.

May 01, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

A former U.S. Naval Academy official has insisted in testimony to a federal jury that Capt. James E. Weston could not award construction contracts that exceeded Navy estimates without higher approval.

But the official, Capt. Sidney A. Mohsberg, the academy's former resident construction officer, said on cross-examination by a federal prosecutor that if Weston did not endorse a specific contract award, no award would have been made.

Weston, the academy's former public works officer and now retired, is on trial in U.S. District Court here on charges of conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice. The charges stem alleged from contract corruption and favoritism involving gifts from -- and Amway sales to -- contractors who did business with him at the academy.

Mohsberg testified for the defense yesterday as Weston's attorney, William M. Ferris, fought damaging testimony from prosecution witnesses who said Weston shook down contractors for gifts and Amway purchases, and directed subordinates to justify awarding lucrative jobs to favored contractors.

Mohsberg's testimony dealt mainly with a $961,000 award to Dunton Contracting Inc. in 1986 for heating, ventilation and air conditioning work at Rickover Hall. Carroll Dunton was the only bidder and got the job. But his bid was $342,000 more than the Navy's estimate.

Prosecutors allege that Dunton got the contract because he gave Weston thousands of dollars worth of illegal gratuities and bought $25,000 worth of Amway merchandise from the captain.

Mohsberg said the Rickover Hall contract could not have been awarded without the approval of the Naval Facilities Command in Washington because it required an authorization to spend the extra money.

Mohsberg said, too, that he never discussed the Rickover Hall contract with Weston, and that he never saw Weston give orders to any of his (Mohsberg's) subordinates.

But he said that he didn't remember signing critical documents related to the Rickover Hall contract and didn't remember sending Weston's assistant a note saying he would prepare the contract for Weston's signature if Weston approved it, even though he was shown the note in his own handwriting.

On cross-examination by prosecutor Jane F. Barrett, Mohsberg acknowledged that the Naval Facilities Command relied heavily on Weston's experience in approving any job that was bid over budget because Weston was the academy's senior civil engineer.

Mohsberg also testified that:

*His subordinates would take orders from Weston because of the defendant's position of authority.

*Weston could override his judgments on contract awards, but never did.

*He never had confrontations with Weston on contract matters because Weston could "have input" on Mohsberg's Navy fitness reports, which were critical to his career advancement.

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