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  • Superior court throws out Los Angeles Community College District’s decision to debar FTR International, Inc., finding Constitutional violations and lack of support for charges.


    In a ruling issued late on March 13, 2012, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Jane L. Johnson issued a detailed 17-page order directing the Board of Trustees of the Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) to throw out its February 8, 2012 order debarring FTR International, Inc. and its President, Nizar Katbi, from “bidding, contracting, subcontracting, or performing work on any District project for a period of five (5) years.” Based on a thorough review of the evidence considered by the Board, Judge Johnson found that the Board abused its discretion in debarring FTR and Katbi because the evidence did not support the charges against them. Judge Johnson also found that the Board violated the constitutional rights of FTR and Katbi by refusing to rule on any of their defenses, and by rejecting FTR and Katbi’s request that the debarment hearing be held before a neutral arbitrator, rather than a committee of the Board. In so ruling, Judge Johnson specifically found that the Board harbored an “unacceptable probability of actual bias” against FTR and Katbi.

    On October 17, 2011, the Board issued three charges against FTR and Katbi, accusing them of submitting a “false and fraudulent” pay application in August, 2008, providing a “false and fraudulent” form in June 2009, and performing substandard construction on the Allied Health and Science Building at LACCD’s Valley College, which was occupied in 2008. In reversing the first charge, the Court noted that the undisputed evidence showed that LACCD itself advised FTR to submit the pay application at issue and then tried to “punish them for complying.” On the second charge, which accused FTR of submitting a “false and fraudulent” form stating that its work on a project was 100% complete, the Court ruled that the undisputed evidence showed that LACCD negotiated a settlement that relieved FTR of any further responsibility, which was consistent with the 100% completion form that FTR submitted. On the third charge of substandard work on the Allied Health building, the Court found there was “no basis to conclude that FTR failed to construct the [building’s] exterior” in compliance with the plans and that FTR “cannot have conducted ‘poor workmanship’” because it followed the plans and was precluded from making repairs.

    On the constitutional ruling, the Court directed LACCD to hold any further hearing before a neutral arbitrator, not a Board committee. In response to FTR’s argument that there were equitable defenses that should preclude any hearing on two of the charges, Judge Johnson called for further briefing on her authority to prohibit renewed prosecution of these charges and set another hearing for April 12, 2012. FTR’s President, Nizar Katbi, said of the Court’s ruling, “I feel very pleased and vindicated by the judge’s powerful ruling in favor of FTR. It has been our position all along that these were trumped-up charges designed to deflect the public’s attention away from real management problems inside LACCD’s construction program. We hope to continue the high quality construction work we have done for more than 28 years.

    “Judge Johnson’s ruling is a bulwark against government abuse,” said FTR’s attorney, Theresa M. Traber. “It sent the message that public entities, like LACCD’s Board, do not have unfettered discretion to block qualified businesses from participating in public projects, and cautions them that they must do so only when justified by the facts and only through fair and constitutional procedures.”

    FTR and Mr. Katbi have filed a lawsuit against LACCD’s Board seeking damages for their unlawful efforts and violation of constitutional rights. The action is currently pending the final ruling from the Los Angeles Superior Court.

    Theresa Traber
    General Counsel
    Traber & Voorhees
    (626) 585-9611


    FTR Fires Back Against LACCD’s False Allegations

    On March 13, 2012, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Johnson will render a decision in the matter of debarment charges brought against FTR International by the Los Angeles Community College District, for work performed during 2006-2008 regarding the Allied Health & Science Building project.

    FTR’s legal counsel consists of four attorneys, Theresa M. Traber, Lauren Teukolsky, Bradley A. Raisin and Armenak Kavcioglu.  A writ of mandate has been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court to overturn the Board’s February 8, 2012 Findings to Debar. Citing the same evidence that the LACCD Board possessed, but didn’t bother to consult in its hatchet-job reputation-smearing campaign, FTR’s legal team has proved to the Court, in their brief, that LACCD failed to introduce any evidence that would back up their three claims. It will be shown that, as a matter of fact, LACCD couldn’t introduce evidence. Why? Because there was none. Instead, the evidence, or lack thereof, will show that LACCD fabricated the charges to cover up its own corruption, mismanagement, and waste on the project. The evidence FTR’s lawyers presented to Judge Johnson debunks the three spurious charges that occasioned the debarment ruling. By providing the same evidence to Judge Johnson, a well-known Superior Court judge with a reputation for keeping politics out of the courtroom, FTR believes that she will rule accordingly and reverse the Board’s unjust recommendations, bringing justice to FTR and its aggrieved parties.

    What’s at stake is not just the waste of millions of dollars of taxpayer’s money. The issue is far greater. At stake is the potential for severe injury to the reputations of FTR and Mr. Katbi, a protection granted them under the due process rights of the U.S. and California Constitutions. As citizens of a country that guarantees equality under the law, we should hope for (and expect) nothing less.

    It is a shame, not to mention a waste of time, money and prestige, that the LACCD Board would bring to public scrutiny this ridiculous, mistake-riddled, and vindictive matter, which is nothing more than a misguided attempt to cast FTR as a scapegoat to divert attention away from their own problems.  LACCD would have served the taxpayers far better by fixing their system rather than blaming others for their own mistakes.

    Press Release
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    FTR Refutes Spurious Los Angeles Times False Claims

    On January 21, 2012, under the bylines of Michael Finnegan and Gale Holland, the Los Angeles Times printed an article entitled “A Compromised Watchdog.” With a tag line that read “Gateway Science and Engineering collected consulting fees from one of the contractors (FTR International Inc.) it was supervising on the rebuilding of Mission College in Sylmar,” the article questioned FTR’s legal conduct during the tenure of the project, citing alleged project delays, dubious billing for concrete and “unrelated work,” and shoddy work quality.

    If true, the charges are damning, representing a huge waste of taxpayer’s money, not to mention a surprising and curious about face for a company known for its ability to bring in quality projects under budget and ahead of schedule.

    The allegations, to say the least, don’t just brim with until-now hidden agendas, they are categorically false and defamatory.

    On January 31, 2012, Bradley Raisin, partner of the Raisin & Kavcioglu law firm, wrote a letter to Mr. Eddy W. Hartenstein, Publisher of the Los Angeles Times, demanding a retraction of and correction to the spurious claims made by Finnegan and Holland. Framing the article as a conscious intent to “injure FTR and Nizar Katbi, (FTR’s President/CEO),” Mr. Raisin submitted a point-by-point analysis that irrefutably showed that the article was pocked with false and misleading statements as well as incomplete and misleading information.  Even the article’s description of Mr. Katbi’s philanthropy was incomplete, not fully addressing the substantial contributions that he has made not just to the College but to the surrounding community. Finally, the article’s ubiquitous references to Mr. Katbi’s ethnicity (He is Syrian) are not just irrelevant but, in this current political and social climate, inflammatory if not dangerous.

    Mr. Raisin’s letter was for naught, as Mr. Hartenstein refused to retract the letter.

    On the same date a letter similar in tone and content was sent to Wayne S. Lindholm of Hensel Phelps, providing him with the opportunity to explain the defamatory comments he was said to have made in the article. Like Mr. Hartenstein, he refused to respond.

    But a similar letter with a similar intent was sent on the same date to James Zack of Navigant. Not only did he respond on February 12,2012, he shed light on the research methods of Finnegan and Holland, methods than can be best described in the same terms they used to describe FTR’s efforts in the project:  shoddy. As Mr. Zack wrote “…the reporter for the Los Angeles Times never asked nor did we ever discuss anything related to FTR International’s work for the Los Angeles Community College District. As a result, I made no comments on FTR’s work on that or other project.”

    Mr. Zack’s clarifications on the article’s allegations represent the first step towards the exoneration of FTR’s alleged impropriety and malfeasance with respect to their LACCD work as well as towards the rebuilding of FTR’s hitherto gold standard reputation as a contractor with 28 years of award-winning experience. The next – and most important – step will occur on March 13th, when a Superior Court judge will review evidence that will allay these baseless charges that until now have cast FTR as the fall guy. The firm was built and nurtured on core values of quality, innovation, challenges, customers, safety & responsibility, and respect. As of March 13th, will continue to do so, business as usual, for the years to come.

    Press Release

    U.S. Green Building Council to Lead Tour of the Port of Long Beach’s First LEED Gold Certified Building – Pier G Marine Terminal Operations project, Built by FTR.

    FTR International Inc. is proud that the United States Green Building Council’s Los Angeles Chapter is providing its members, as well as the general public, access to this signature FTR project, a LEED milestone for the Port of Long Beach. The tour will take place on December 6th and will highlight how this project exceeded its original design intent of LEED Silver to achieve LEED Gold. Many factors contributed to this level upgrade including FTR’s diligence in diverted 97% of Construction waste from landfills.

    This state-of-the-art facility is the second sustainable project FTR has completed for the Port, including the POLB’s first LEED project, the LEED Silver, Security Command and Control Center. The new Pier G Operations project is a welcome addition to FTR’s industry leading list of completed sustainable projects in Southern California as we expand on our continuing commitment to completing LEED Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum facilities for many of our regions most prominent owners and agencies.

    Specific tour information can be obtained by visiting the USGBC website at:  www.usgbc-la.org.

    Green, Ports
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    FTR Executive Speaks With High School Kids, sponsored by The Southern California Leadership Network in Partnership with the Los Angeles Area Chamber

    On November 18, 2011, FTR Senior Vice President and Director of Architecture, Brian A. Kite, A.I.A. had the pleasure of addressing advanced placement Junior and Senior high school students at Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in Downtown Los Angeles, Invited by the Southern California Leadership Network in part because of his extensive thirty year career as an industry leader, Mr. Kite took the opportunity to enlighten the scholar students in a myriad of topics including, careers,  industry tends, (past and present), and his personal experiences and successes. The students relished his insights and Brian was delighted to share his expertise, while also receiving very positive feedback from Contreras’ Principal Rosie Martinez. FTR supported Brian and is proud that he was willing to take the time to contribute to this worthy local program.

    Construction, Education, Outreach
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    FTR and the Pierce Brahmas share victory at the new Pierce Stadium opened ahead of schedule for the last game of the season

    Almost like magic, the skies cleared Saturday evening November 12th, just prior to the 7:00 pm kick off of the Pierce Brahmas football game, their first in the new Pierce Stadium project. “The sweet smell of victory was shared by all” said FTR Vice President John Saliba who was on hand to deliver the winning “hand off” to College President Dr. Kathleen Burke-Kelly, Athletic Director Bob Lyons and Communications Representative Barb Dery. And true to form, the Brahmas went on to victory as they trounced LA Valley College, 47-17, a moment of shared victory for Brahama fans and FTR International.

    The player’s sparkly clean uniforms were maintained throughout the game due to the state-of-the-art synthetic playing fields’ exceptional water drainage capability. Strong rains had proceeded the Saturday game which could have been the Brahmas first “mud bowl” had natural turf been installed.

    The multi-million dollar design/build renovation and improvement project was a collaboration of FTR International and architect Leo A Daly. In order to meet game time, FTR employed several fast track techniques during construction enabling key components of the project to be completed ahead of schedule – giving Pierce that old fashionhome field advantage.  The team’s performance exhilarated fans and gave rise to the power of place on this special night. If last Saturday’s game was any indication, the Pierce teams that use the stadium have a very bright future. FTR is pleased to have played its part in building on this next piece of the successful campaign for excellence in facility design and construction for years to come.

    Construction, Health & PE
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    Ventura County Superior Court judge orders Rio School District to pay FTR $5.5 million

    State of California Judge William Q. Liebmann of the Ventura County Superior Court has awarded FTR International Inc. nearly $5.5 million in contract claims against the Rio School District. This payment compensates FTR for the extra work it performed, disruption-induced delays, unpaid contract balance, penalties, and interest on the Rio Del Norte School project, which was successfully completed by the contractor 10 years ago.  Moreover, the court ruled in FTR’s favor, dismissing the false claims that were alleged by the Rio School District in retaliation to FTR’s claims.  FTR will recover all lawsuit costs, including attorney’s fees, which will be determined by Judge Liebmann within the next 60 days.  FTR is pleased to finally be vindicated of this injustice after a decade of one of the lengthiest trials in Ventura County history.


    Press Release
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    FTR a Bronze Sponsor at the AAa/e Awards Banquet

    FTR International Inc. was a Bronze Level Sponsor at the 34th Annual Asian American Architects and Engineers Awards Banquet on October 6, 2011.  The Gala, which was held at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, paid special tribute to United States Congresswoman Judy Chu, and Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry, USC School of Architecture Dean Quingyun Ma, and the late Bill Yang, AAa/e founding member.   FTR was honored to host, at its table, former Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Lydia Kennard, Port of Long Beach Program Director Doug Sereno, Michael Keenan of  the Port of Los Angeles, USC Professor Jim Fawcett, Warren Romberger of SRA, UGL Services Managing Principal David Kluth, and Karen Compton, principal of A3K Consulting.

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    FTR is the apparent low-bidder of the East Los Angeles College Science and Math Complex

    FTR International Inc. was the apparent low-bidder of the Math and Science Complex at East Los Angeles College, which is part of the Los Angeles Community College District’s $6 billion Sustainable Building Program.  This project features a new 3-story building for Life Sciences, Chemistry and Math, in two academic wings connected by a glass-walled circulation core.  The project also includes two renovated buildings for Physics and Earth Sciences surrounding a landscaped plaza.

    Construction, Proposal, Qualification
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    FTR honored by the County of Los Angeles

    This month FTR International Inc. received a beautiful hand-painted commendation certificate from Don Knabe, Supervisor of Los Angeles County’s Fourth District “In recognition of dedicated service to the affairs of the community and for the civic pride demonstrated by numerous contributions for the benefit of all citizens of Los Angeles County.”  This followed FTR’s recent successful completion of the Port of Los Angeles Police Headquarters project which lies in Supervisor Knabe’s district.

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