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.