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Boeing Fires 2 Top Officials In Hiring Probe

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 25, 2003; Page A01

Boeing Co. fired its chief financial officer yesterday, saying that he covered up his improper attempt to hire a senior Air Force official who supervised Pentagon contracts with the company. The Air Force official, who eventually joined Boeing, also was dismissed.

Michael M. Sears, a 30-year Boeing veteran, and Darleen A. Druyun, a Boeing senior vice president and former Air Force deputy chief procurement officer, were fired for violating company policies on hiring. The company's internal investigation found that Sears approached Druyun about joining Boeing while Druyun was overseeing hundreds of Boeing contracts for the Air Force.

Michael Sears, left, was Boeing Co.'s chief financial officer until his firing. Darleen A. Druyun was a Boeing senior vice president.

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Boeing did not say how Sears and Druyun sought to cover up their actions.

The dismissals revived concerns about the "revolving door" between the Pentagon and defense companies. In addition, Sears's departure adds uncertainty to succession at Boeing, where he was considered a top contender to replace chairman and chief executive Philip M. Condit.

The firings came on the day President Bush signed the defense bill that gives the Air Force permission to lease and buy 100 Boeing aircraft for use as refueling tankers. The Pentagon inspector general already is investigating whether Druyun passed proprietary information to Boeing during the tanker negotiations. The Air Force and the inspector general may renew their scrutiny of how Boeing negotiated the tanker deal and won a competition to launch satellites.

"So far there is no indication that Boeing benefited in any way from Mike and Darleen's improper contact, but we are expanding the internal review to ensure we have all the facts," Condit said in a letter to Boeing employees yesterday.

The Air Force said it is "examining options in this matter," including asking the inspector general to investigate the alleged impropriety. "Air Force leadership is very concerned with the revelation that Ms. Druyun and the chief financial officer for Boeing are being dismissed from Boeing," it said in a statement. "The Air Force deplores behavior that jeopardizes the integrity of government procurement activities. Scrupulous adherence to the letter and spirit of procurement regulations is essential to the underlying integrity of defense acquisition programs."

Sears is the first senior defense industry executive in a generation to be fired over an ethical lapse. Boeing's internal investigation found that he used Druyun's daughter, Heather, a Boeing employee in St. Louis, as a conduit in initial employment discussions in September 2002. The probe turned up e-mails in which Sears contacted Heather Druyun about a possible position and others in which she relayed the messages to her mother.

Sears and Darleen Druyun met for discussions about a job at the company in October, according to Larry McCracken, Boeing's spokesman. Druyun didn't recuse herself from decisions involving the company until Nov. 5, at least two weeks after the initial meeting, the investigation showed. At the time, Boeing and the Air Force were in negotiations over the Boeing tanker contract.

Druyun retired from the Air Force in November and began working at Boeing in January as vice president and deputy general manager of missile defense systems. Druyun was also offered a position at Lockheed Martin Corp. but turned it down because she wanted more responsibility, her attorney has said.

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