A group critical of a $21 billion deal to lease 100 Boeing refueling tankers to the Air Force is raising new questions about a former Air Force official's relationship with the company during the negotiations.
Darleen Druyun, who is now a senior executive at Boeing Co., sold her house to a Boeing lawyer while acting as the Air Force's principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and management, according to documents uncovered by the National Legal and Policy Center. Druyun's daughter is also employed at Boeing, which raises questions about whether Druyun helped her land the job, the center said in a letter to the Pentagon inspector general's office.
The house sale and employment of Druyun's daughter were reported earlier in the Wall Street Journal.
Druyun is under investigation by the IG's office to determine whether she improperly shared a competitor's proprietary information with Boeing during the negotiations on the tanker deal. Boeing said that the information was publicly available and not proprietary.
Industry officials said Druyun does not appear to have engaged in any illegal or unethical behavior related to the sale of her home or her daughter's employment.
"It's more of an appearance issue than an actual illegality," said Eric Miller, senior defense investigator for Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group that has opposed the tanker deal.
Druyun brought any potential conflicts to the attention of Air Force lawyers and recused herself from making decisions that could have an impact on Boeing before accepting a job there, said her attorney, William Sheehan.
Druyun sold her house in the Dunn Loring area of Fairfax County to John Judy, a Boeing lawyer, for $692,000 in January, according to the National Legal and Policy Center. About the same time, Druyun bought a house in Vienna for $870,365, said Kenneth Boehm, chairman of the center.
"It appears that, while Ms. Druyun was conferring with Boeing on a multibillion procurement proposal . . . she might have obtained some assurances from Boeing . . . that their Dunn Loring home would in fact be bought at an acceptable price at some future date," Boehm said in a letter to the inspector general's office.
There was no such agreement, said Sheehan. Both Druyun and Judy were working through real estate agents, who brokered the deals, he said. Judy's agent sent him a list of 10 homes in his price range, and Druyun's property just happened to be among them, Sheehan said. Judy paid $38,000 less than Druyun's asking price, he said.
"The home-sale thing -- that is probably legal but stupid," said Steven L. Schooner, a professor of procurement policy at George Washington University. It presents an appearance problem but does not seem to have broken any rules, he said.
The center also raised questions about Druyun's daughter, who works for Boeing in St. Louis. "Did Boeing's employment of Ms. Druyun's daughter while Boeing had business before the Air Force give rise to a conflict of interest?" Boehm asked.
When Druyun was among a group of Air Force officials deciding whether Boeing or Lockheed Martin Corp. should be awarded a contract for the Joint Strike Fighter, she presented the issue to two Air Force ethics officers. They told her it was not a conflict, Sheehan said. Druyun asked if she should be recused from the committee but was told it was not necessary, Sheehan said. Boeing lost the competition.
It is not unusual for a Pentagon official to have a relative working for a defense contractor, said Dick Bednar, coordinator for the Defense Industry Initiative on Business Ethics and Conduct. "I would say it is quite common," he said.