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Agents Search Homes, Yacht Of Contractor, Congressman

MZM owner Mitchell J. Wade's yacht, the Duke-Stir, foreground, is part of a probe of Wade's relationship with Rep. Randy
MZM owner Mitchell J. Wade's yacht, the Duke-Stir, foreground, is part of a probe of Wade's relationship with Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). (By Sarah L. Voisin -- The Washington Post)

The search warrants were executed at the company's headquarters two weeks to the day after an MZM official who worked closely with Wade shredded a large stack of documents on the third floor of MZM's Washington headquarters, two sources with knowledge of the incident said independently yesterday. They said the official destroyed the documents on June 17 in a waist-high machine during Wade's final hours in the office, an act that one source described as "weird" because of the timing.

Wade and his attorneys agreed the previous evening that he would surrender control of the company to other senior MZM officials, and they also agreed that he could pack up his office papers at a set time on June 17, one of the sources said. But Wade angered the firm's new managers by arriving earlier than agreed, according to this source. Both sources said he was in the building when the shredding occurred.

The nature of the destroyed documents could not be learned, and the executive who did the shredding did not reply to phone calls and e-mails seeking his comment. The shredding was halted when it became apparent to the new company managers, the sources said. Another senior MZM official affixed a note to the door in mid-morning that day, ordering employees of the company not to enter the room where the machine was located, they added. Wade was eventually permitted to take other documents from the building in boxes, under the supervision of company attorneys, the sources said.

The sources spoke on the condition that they not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The Navy says Wade entered the Naval Reserve in November 1987 and the Individual Ready Reserve in 1996. He resigned his commission in 1999. He reached the rank of lieutenant commander. Wade was a program manager at the office of the assistant secretary of defense for command, communications and intelligence from 1991 to 1993, according to his entry in Who's Who.

Wade started MZM in 1993, but it did not begin to grow until it was awarded a broadly written contract, called a blanket purchase order, in fall 2002. It did more than $163 million in work for a variety of Pentagon agencies until the Defense Information Systems Agency cut off new work orders 11 days ago, saying the inspector general's office ruled that the work was not competitively awarded.

Federal procurement records show one of MZM's first contracts was a $140,000 deal to provide office furniture to the Executive Office of President. In 2003, the Pentagon hired the firm to provide linguists in Iraq.

According to news reports, some former and current MZM employees have complained that they were pressured to contribute to the company's political action committee, which could be illegal. The PAC and MZM employees contributed $50,000 to the 2004 campaign of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign spending.

Harris sent a letter to MZM employees this week, offering to return contributions if they were "pressured, overtly or tacitly, in making this gesture." According to Adam Goodman, Harris's campaign consultant, the letter was prompted by the news reports and the congresswoman had not been contacted by federal investigators.

Staff Writer Jeffrey H. Birnbaum contributed to this report.

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