AECOM fraud lawsuit raises concerns about Civic Center relocation project


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

AECOM was hired to help relocate services housed in the Civic Center. The Friends of the Civic Center decried City Council’s vote to hire the firm, which is currently embroiled in a federal fraud lawsuit.

Lily Carey, Reporter

Friends of the Civic Center decried City Council’s vote to hire engineering company AECOM, which is currently embroiled in a federal fraud lawsuit, in a Thursday letter. 

City Council voted to award AECOM a $367,000 contract Oct. 25 as part of the city’s Civic Center Relocation Feasibility Project. The project looks into options for moving services housed at the current Civic Center to a new space downtown. 

AECOM is involved in a lawsuit that claims the firm helped several New Orleans organizations receive tens of millions of dollars of unnecessary federal emergency aid funds by exaggerating damage reports following Hurricane Katrina. A former AECOM project manager filed the suit in 2016. The Archdiocese of New Orleans agreed to pay $1 million to the federal government Tuesday to resolve the allegations. 

Friends of the Civic Center, an organization protesting against the relocation of the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center services, said these allegations raise worries about the firm’s ability to handle its Evanston project. 

“If AECOM was complicit in a scheme to defraud the federal government … it cannot be trusted to provide objective and honest advice on the best options for what would be a major undertaking for Evanston,” Friends of the Civic Center wrote in the letter.

Though Xavier University of Louisiana and the Archdiocese of New Orleans have both agreed to pay settlements to the federal government to resolve the allegations, AECOM has not reached a settlement. Both The New York Times and reported the firm has previously pledged to defend its actions. 

The Civic Center is located in the historic Marywood Academy building on Ridge Avenue.

Proponents for moving the center say the building is not easily accessible by public transportation and disability standards and has fallen into disrepair over the years. City officials also say a move could help grow the city’s green infrastructure network.

Friends of the Civic Center made headlines pushing against an original city proposal to explore the building’s relocation in 2007, saying it was unnecessary and expensive. Now, the organization is reigniting its efforts to push back against current relocation initiatives.

But unless this lawsuit is resolved, Friends of the Civic Center said AECOM is not to be trusted with the Civic Center Relocation Feasibility Project.

“Does the City of Evanston really want to do business and take advice from a firm that is clearly dishonest and untrustworthy?” the organization wrote. “We urge you to put a stop to moving forward with this.”

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Twitter: @lilylcarey

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