Water District Investigates Deal with Jeb Bush's Former Partner

May 23, 2002

The South Florida Water Management District has begun an investigation of a contract it awarded to a company run by a former business partner of Gov. Jeb Bush.

The district is trying to determine whether its staff improperly gave a US $1.9 million deal for water pumps to MWI Corp. of Deerfield Beach, said district spokesman Randy Smith. A report is expected to be released within a week, Smith added.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice sued MWI over the alleged misuse of part of a $74.3 million U.S. loan to sell water pumps to Nigeria.

Bush, who was not accused of wrongdoing, had traveled to Nigeria in 1989 to promote MWI products as a representative of Bush-El, a company he owned jointly with MWI president David Eller.

The South Florida investigation is into a contract that MWI won on Sept. 25, 2000, for 15 pumps that were needed to extract water from Lake Okeechobee during the third year of a drought, Smith said.

Smith said the district decided to waive normal procurement rules because MWI could offer a fast turnaround time for the order. He did not detail the rules that were waived.

The district's nine-member board is appointed by the governor. At the time the contract was awarded, most members were Bush appointees. Phone calls to the Republican governor's spokesman were not immediately returned early Thursday.

MWI spokesman Kevin Boyd said the company did nothing wrong in obtaining the contract, and has done business with both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Boyd also said the federal government has dropped a criminal investigation into the Nigeria allegations and that he expected the same result for the civil suit.

Source: The Associated Press