Councilwoman Justus eager to defend herself against ethics complaint

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Councilwoman Jolie Justus will appear before the city's ethics commission Wednesday, to respond to a complaint that she has a conflict of interest in the selection of a contractor to build a new terminal at KCI Airport.

The 4th district councilwoman is chair of the KCI selection committee. She also is a lawyer with Shook, Hardy and Bacon, a firm that represented one of the airport bidders in a lawsuit last year.

A city contract to build a new airport terminal is expected to be valued at about $1-billion. And competition to get that lucrative deal has become fierce.

Burns and McDonnell, one of the teams bidding on the project, did hire Justus' law firm in 2016, but is not currently doing any work with Shook, Hardy and Bacon.

The engineering company has hired a different law firm for the airport bid process.

"I am the director of pro bono legal services at our firm," Justus explained. "I do all non billable work for the firm. When I am in court I am representing kids and families in the foster care system. I have absolutely no material value that comes to me because of my firm's previous representation of Burns and Mac."

Justus claims an opinion from the city's legal department says she does not stand to gain a personal or financial benefit from her employer's work with Burns and McDonnell.

Justus also says she does not share in her law firm's profits.

Justus will appear before the ethics commission at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. She says she will present multiple legal opinions which she claims all conclude that she does not have a conflict of interest in the KCI selection decision.