The new owner of a monthly Houston magazine has come under attack for his decision not to publish an article detailing charges of construction flaws at the South Texas Nuclear Project being built in nearby Bay City.
The article's author and one of the magazine's senior editors, who has resigned because of the controversy, have charged that Francois De Menil suppressed the article to protect family friend George Brown, founder of Brown & Root Co., which is building the nuclear plant.
De Menil, who purchased 80 percent of the stock of the 30,000-circulation Houston City Magazine in May, called the charges "ridiculous."
"I've only met George Brown once or twice," De Menil said. "He is really just an acquaintence of my parents." De Menil's mother, Dominique, is heiress to the Schlumberger oil tool and technology fortune.
The article, which has been published in In Between, a Galveston magazine, details allegations of forged construction records and intimidation of inspectors who reported alleged shoddy workmanship.
Author Andrew Sansom, a Houston free-lance writer who specializes in energy reporting, said he got most of the information for the article from documents on file with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Last week, the NRC announced an investigation of the alleged construction problems at the project, which consists of two 1,100-megawatt generators scheduled for completion in 1983.
De Menil admitted that his lawyers suggested "only a few word changes" after checking Sansom's article for potentially libelous content.
However, De Menil said he ordered the article withdrawn from the magazine's May and June issues because "it would behoove us to spend more time working on this story."
However, Sansom said members of the magazine's staff had told him privately that the article was withdrawn to protect Brown's reputation.
Senior editor Laura Furman, who resigned because of the article's suppression, said she "was never given any reasons" for the suppression "that held water."
De Menil also refused to comment on charges, confirmed by several former stockholders, that he made suppression of the article a condition of his purchase of the magazine.
"I really don't want to discuss the deal," he said. "It's nobody's business but ours and there's no reason to publicize it."