Finger-pointing, fury and feuding emerge among Kansas City’s leadership over KCI airport negotiation

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Mayor Sly James is now firing back after members of the city council sent shock waves through the process of striking a deal with the developer the council selected to build a new KCI.

From the start, the airport-approval process has been a bit messy. One thing that is overwhelmingly clear is that 75 percent of voters have said yes to wanting a new KCI.

But now, it seems who will build it is up in the air.

James is not mixing words over his angst about the council's vote.

"It puts a stain on this city that I’ve worked for the last six and a half years to avoid," he said. "It is a bad way to govern, and it is a sham of a process when you do this. So I’m not going to join this process with them. I’m going to do everything I can to get it back on track."

Thursday night, council members who previously supported selecting Edgemoor to fulfill their vision for a new KCI pulled the rug out from underneath it all.

"I’m still searching for the reasons — legitimate reasons — to stop negotiating," James said. "And if it’s a matter of due diligence, you don’t pull a stunt like that then immediately present a resolution that calls for substituting in AECom. Due diligence means you continue to negotiate and you continue to get answers to your questions until you reach an impasse, and that hasn’t happened."

Kansas City Council member Jermaine Reed echoed the mayor’s frustration over Thursday night’s rejection of the memorandum of understanding with Edgemoor.

“It’s a bit baffling to me, and I believe it’s complete malarkey,” Reed said.

But he still remains confident that the city will be able to work out the disagreements over the city’s arrangement with Edgemoor to build the new airport.

“Let me put it to you this way,” Reed said. “I hope that it’s an early Christmas gift for the citizens of Kansas City, that we get our act together very quickly and we continue with the discussions to allow for us to build a world-class airport with Edgemoor.”

Lee Barnes Jr. was one of the council members who said "no" to Edgemoor's memorandum of understanding, or MOU, with the city.

"This process is not muckied up, not at all," he said. "It states in our code of ordinances that we can move on to the next proposal."

Barnes, who represents the city's 5th district, believes the deal the council agree to initially meant any company they picked would be "at risk" from the time of selection to the public vote Nov. 8.

But now, Edgemoor is asking for up to $30 million to recoup its costs thus far, including costs from before Nov. 8. Other council members also questioned whether Edgemoor will hire enough women- and minority-owned businesses.

"When you’ve selected a company though, why not negotiate with that company and say, 'Let’s get what we want?'" Fox 4's Kera Mashek asked.

"And we tried to negotiate with that company," Barnes Jr. said. "Negotiations didn’t go well."

The mayor said there's still plenty of time to strike a better deal. Edgemoor agrees.

"In all projects we’ve been involved in, there have been speed bumps along the way," Edgemoor Managing Director Geoffrey Stricker said. "And so we just are looking forward to working with the council to try and work through these issues and try to move forward."

But Barnes is ready to walk away. He's already drawn up an ordinance to ditch Edgemoor and move onto the No. 2 pick -- AECom.

The fight is far from over. The airport committee will now have to hash out what happens next. It meets Thursday, and the full city council meets later that same day.

Regardless, Edgemoor said it's moving ahead, continuing meetings with aviation and airlines and working to address the council's concerns.

On Friday, the company released the following statement:

"Since the Edgemoor Team’s selection, we have been working collaboratively with the City to address all of the elements of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Over the last two months, we have incorporated every change that has been requested by the City. Just yesterday, new concerns were brought to our attention during Business Session. We were unaware of these concerns prior to the meeting, and believe we should be afforded the opportunity to continue negotiations and develop solutions.

"Throughout the procurement process, and during the campaign and the weeks that followed, our team has been open, transparent and collaborative with the Council, and the community, with a focus on delivering the best result for Kansas City.

"For months, we have worked with our partners from the Aviation Department and the airlines to build on the great work that was done, to further the design of a new terminal, and to ensure it will meet the needs and expectations of all who will use it.

"We are grateful to everyone we have met over the past few months, including the hundreds of community members who participated in our Design Workshops and contributed their ideas and insights.

"The Edgemoor Team remains committed to delivering a world-class terminal for Kansas City. We welcome the opportunity to continue our discussions with the Mayor and Council to address all areas of concern. We are confident we can reach an agreement that will continue this great region’s momentum and enable Kansas City to bring to life a game-changing gateway for generations to come."