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American Shipper

Houston port hires attorney to assist with probe

Houston port hires attorney to assist with probe

   The Port of Houston Commission has hired a high-profile attorney to assist it with separate investigations by the Harris County District Attorney and Harris County Attorney into activities by port officials, including Chief Executive Officer Alec Dreyer and Chairman Jim Edmonds.

      The board agreed to hire defense attorney Rusty Hardin to act as a liaison between the port and the investigators, said Lisa Ashley, director of corporate communications.

   A discussion about Dreyer's employment at the port was tabled, she said.

   The Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday that Hardin was on retainer and would be paid $5,000 a month for up to six months of work.

Dreyer

   Edmonds and Dreyer invited an investigation from the district attorney after a series of reports on a local ABC affiliate television station raised questions about activities by the board and Dreyer.

   Ashley says these include:

   ' Questions about expenses incurred from a 2010 event on the Sam Houston, the port’s tour boat. Ashley said the trip was requested by Dreyer, who joined the port in 2009, and Nora Brownell, a former member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ashley said Dreyer and Brownell, who both serve on the board of energy management company Comverge, wanted to show off the port’s facilities to other members in the energy industry.

Edmonds

   ' The port was also criticized for a visit in January by Khamis Gadhafi, son of Moamar Gadhafi. In 2010, in conjunction with efforts to encourage trade with Libya, the United States entered into a bilateral trade agreement with Libya. Port authority representatives traveled to Libyan ports. The visit, which was part of a tour Khamis arranged as part of his masters studies, became a public relations nightmare for the port after civil war broke out this year in Libya. Khamis was reportedly killed in March.

   ' Edmonds was also criticized for his work as a consultant with AECOM, which has done work for the port.

   ' Questions have been raised by the television station about expenses incurred by the port when board members traveled to Halifax to convince the American Association of Port Authorities to hold its 2014 world conference in Houston. Ashley said the port was eager to hold the meeting in Houston that year because it is the centennial of the opening of the Houston Ship Channel and the Panama Canal. ' Chris Dupin

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