When Darleen Druyun talked, chief executives of the world's largest defense companies listened.
She held a somewhat obscure post, as the Air Force's principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisitions, and turned it into one of the Pentagon's most powerful civilian jobs. She controlled a $30-billion-a-year procurement budget and could make or kill a military project.
In August, she could be sentenced to as many as five years in prison.
Druyun pleaded guilty two months ago to one federal count of criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice, admitting that she tried to cover up that she had brokered a $250,000-a-year executive position with Boeing Co. at the same time that she was signing off on multibillion-dollar contracts with the company.
Now she is cooperating with federal prosecutors looking into a $23-billion Air Force pact to lease aerial refueling tankers from Boeing, which hired the 56-year-old after she retired from her federal job.
In August of that year , Druyun told the assistant secretary of the Air Force that she planned to retire and was talking to Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. about possible jobs. She recused herself from handling any Pentagon matters involving those two companies but not, at the time, Boeing.
The next month, her daughter, Heather McKee, "acting as Druyun's agent," sent an e-mail to Boeing CFO [Michael] Sears, according to an Air Force memo. McKee — still working for Boeing in St. Louis — said Druyun was planning to leave the Pentagon and was discussing a job with Lockheed.
"We need to talk to her," McKee wrote. Two days later, she e-mailed Sears to say that Druyun was seeking a chief operating officer-level job, according to Pentagon and Justice Department documents.
In another e-mail, Druyun's daughter informed Sears that her mother was "VERY, VERY excited" about the prospects of a job at Boeing. McKee added that Druyun "leaves for Brussels Tues.," referring to a NATO meeting at which Druyun discussed the AWACS contract revision with Boeing executives.
Don't you think Druyun's daughter McKee should be investigated too? I must admit, I do. After all, "acting as her agent," Heather found her mom a sweet little job with one of the vendors who sought what she controlled: a mere $30 billion in payroll deductions from the American middle class.
Maybe somebody from the GAO or an oversight committee ought to call her up:
SM&P Resource Management
Integrated Defense Systems
The Boeing Company
UPDATE: On Friday, June 18, 2004, I found this (Susan Chandler, Chicago Tribune, April 23, 2004):
Darleen Druyun, a former senior Air Force official who was fired from Boeing Co. last year, has taken great pains to protect her daughter from the fallout of an ethics scandal involving a $23.5 billion Pentagon contract.
On Tuesday, Druyun pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy count for discussing a Boeing job while she was negotiating a lease for 100 Boeing tanker aircraft. As part of her plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to go after Druyun's daughter, Heather McKee, who has worked at Boeing for more than three years.
But federal court documents released this week show McKee played a central role in the secret negotiations that resulted in the hiring, and later firing, of her mother. Michael Sears, Boeing's chief financial officer and the executive who recruited Druyun, also was fired for violating Boeing's ethics policies.
Now, the dilemma for Boeing is what to do with McKee, a 27-year-old employee who works in St. Louis, the headquarters of Boeing's booming defense business, known as Integrated Defense Systems. A Boeing spokesman declined to discuss McKee's status, citing concerns about the privacy of employees.
Others argue McKee gave up her privacy when she participated in clandestine efforts to engage Boeing in a bidding war for her mother.
"I would fire her in a second. She is the center point for the unethical conduct between her mother and Mike Sears," said Keith Ashdown, a defense expert with Taxpayers for Common Sense, a government watchdog group.