KC engineering firm that lost out on bid to build new airport is awarded $62M

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 8:06 PM CST
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The Kansas City engineering firm that lost out on its bid to build the city’s soon-to-be open, billion-dollar airport has been awarded $62 million over legal misconduct by an attorney.

The story was first reported by the Kansas City Star.

A panel of arbitrators came to a unanimous ruling in favor of Burns & McDonnell.

It’s a $62 million, private dispute between two of the most influential firms in Kansas City: Burns & McDonnell, and Husch-Blackwell attorney Charles Renner.

In 2017, Burns & McDonnell announced their proposal to build the new billion-dollar airport.

What happened next was the beginning of a yearslong conflict.

“Charles Renner then went to Burns & McDonnell and asked if they wanted to hire him to represent it during the airport selection process,” said Kansas City Star Reporter David Hudnall. “They declined. The next day, Renner starts lobbying council members and the press -- sort of against Burns & McDonnell’s proposal -- advocating for himself to be the outside council representing the city.”

Burns & McDonnell alleged in the arbitration dispute that Renner, who was hired to represent the city during the airport selection process, used his insider position to undermine their bid. That ultimately led to Burns & McDonnell being disqualified from competition.

“Mayor Quintin Lucas, who was then a councilman, puts forward a proposal to hire Renner and it’s accepted,” said Hudnall. “He is hired by the city. Now, he’s in a position of giving legal advice to Kansas City.”

There’s no evidence pointing to Lucas having knowledge of Renner’s motive.

Eventually, Edgemoor -- a company Renner previously represented -- won the bid.

“I think the award was shocking to everyone involved,” Hudnall added. “The $62 million is the same amount, or roughly the same amount, that Burns & McDonnell would have received had they won the airport contract.”

For clarity, the $62 million will be paid by Husch-Blackwell. It’s unclear if the firm will pay it out-of-pocket or if it carried an insurance policy that will pay it.