Ex-Boeing CFO reported near plea on job deal for U.S. official

Case involves offer to hire Pentagon officer working on lease for tanker planes

July 27, 2004|By Susan Chandler | Susan Chandler,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

CHICAGO - Michael Sears, once a fast-rising executive at Boeing Co., is close to pleading guilty to one felony charge for offering a job to a Pentagon official while the official was overseeing a $23.5 billion Boeing contract, according to a source close to the case.

Sears will admit that he aided and abetted the hiring of Darleen Druyun, the Pentagon procurement officer who was negotiating an Air Force lease of 100 Boeing refueling tankers, the source said.

Final details of the plea are being hammered out, the source said, and an agreement should be ready in two or three weeks. U.S. Attorney Paul McNulty, who led the investigation from Alexandria, Va., could not be reached for comment.

Government anti-bribery statutes forbid private firms from offering jobs to public officials who are negotiating government business with them.

In April, Druyun pleaded guilty to one criminal conspiracy count in linked to secret employment discussions that led to her becoming a highly paid executive in Boeing's Washington operations. She is expected to be sentenced Aug. 6.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, Sears could be fined and face from zero to six months in prison for his role in the scheme, which involved e-mail funneled through Druyun's daughter, also a Boeing employee.

Sears once took a company jet to Orlando, Fla., for a meeting with Druyun to iron out final details of her job, according to Druyun's plea agreement. As he was leaving, Sears told Druyun, "This meeting really didn't take place," the court documents say.

Sears, then Boeing's chief financial officer, was considered to be heir apparent to former Chief Executive Phil Condit.

Sears and Druyun were fired by Boeing in November. Condit resigned a week later, saying his exit would help the Chicago-based aerospace firm put several ethical scandals behind it.

Harry Stonecipher, Condit's successor, said recently that he believes Boeing will get the tanker order. But reviews ordered by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have cast doubt on Air Force assertions that the need to replace the aging tanker fleet is critical.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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