Over the objections of its only black member, the Los Angeles Harbor Commission voted Wednesday to extend a contract with a branch of Irvine-based Fluor Corp., a firm that has been banned from engaging in business with the city because of its financial ties to South Africa.
The vote marks the second time since the city enacted its anti-apartheid ordinance--and since the harbor commissioners adopted a similar policy--that the Port of Los Angeles has extended its agreement with Fluor A & E Services Inc. for construction of a wharf and cargo terminal to handle steel and other commodities.
The extension approved Wednesday is worth $134,250 and will add 11 months to Fluor's contract with the port. An earlier extension, passed just 3 weeks after the commissioners adopted their anti-apartheid policy last February, increased the original $918,000 contract by $338,850 and added 31 months to the contract. The new extension brings the contract's expiration date to Oct. 3, 1990.
The port said the company needs more time and money to complete the work because of unexpected problems meeting environmental regulations.
The port is permitted to extend the contract because it was in effect before the city ordinance. According to a report submitted to the harbor commissioners by port Executive Director Ezunial Burts, the port considered hiring a new firm to finish Fluor's work but rejected that plan because it would result in a "significant time delay," increased staff costs and lost revenue.
In addition, Burts said that if the port switched contractors, it might not be able to collect against Fluor's insurance if port officials were dissatisfied with the job.
Three of the harbor commissioners--Jun Mori, Ira Distenfield and Robert Rados--agreed. The fourth, Grace Payne, cast the only dissenting vote.
"Our construction manager informed us that it would be an extreme hardship to relieve Fluor at this time," said Distenfield after the meeting. "We are all on record over and over again that Fluor, given their practices in South Africa," is not a firm with which the port intends to do future business.
In 1986, another subsidiary of Fluor Corp. lost a $310-million contract to manage the expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center because of Fluor's South African ties.
Fluor has sold its operations in South Africa but still employs 30 workers there, about a third of its former work force.
According to Burts' report, the Fluor contract is the only remaining agreement between the port and a firm that does not satisfy the city's anti-apartheid law.
Mayor Tom Bradley, who strongly and vocally objected to the city doing business with Fluor, could not be reached for comment on the port's action Wednesday.