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Teledyne Executive Resigns Amid Allegations : Aerospace: John Fursman acknowledged billing the firm for meals with a female friend but thinks the flap is much to do about nothing.

July 26, 1993|RALPH VARTABEDIAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A veteran senior executive of Teledyne, assigned to help clean up the most troubled of the firm's defense businesses, has left the company after allegations arose that he improperly billed the company for entertaining a woman friend in Boston, The Times has learned.

The senior executive, John Fursman, 56, resigned abruptly two weeks ago from his job as chief of Teledyne's Relays subsidiary in Hawthorne. Fursman was supposed to be restoring the unit's reputation after it pleaded guilty last year to falsifying tests on electronic components.

Although Fursman acknowledged that he charged some minor personal expenses to the company, he indicated in an interview that he thought the controversy was much ado about nothing.

Fursman had been a rising star at Teledyne, credited with building the firm's huge electronics components business during his 28-year career. Today, Teledyne is a leading producer of those specialized components, such as hybrid circuits and relays, thanks in large measure to Fursman.

But Teledyne opened an investigation of Fursman earlier this year after hearing about the expense-report allegations from Rita Havre, who was also a former Teledyne vice president in Boston. She repeated her charges in a series of interviews with The Times.

Fursman disputed some of the allegations, but acknowledged in a phone interview that some restaurant meals with her were charged to the company.

The abrupt resignation comes at an awkward time for the Century City-based firm, which is trying to show the Pentagon that it has strengthened its ethics and appointed new management that emphasizes proper corporate conduct.

Teledyne has twice pleaded guilty in recent years to federal felony charges involving its units and was recently indicted a third time. The Justice Department has also charged three subsidiaries with civil fraud.

The case illustrates the extreme caution with which defense contractors must operate today once they come under government scrutiny. Fursman is only the latest senior defense executive to resign abruptly because of allegations that might have been dealt with less severely or even excused in the past.

Fursman said that Teledyne was making "something out of nothing. The issues being raised today about three years ago are ludicrous. Yes, there was an issue of some expenses. I didn't deny that there were some meals that you could argue whether they were legitimate or not.

"But they are such a small thing. That is the environment we are in. It is an adversarial relationship between everybody. I think that is true of all the aerospace industry today."

But in the interview, Fursman also said that he had resigned voluntarily. Asked if the company found any wrongdoing in its investigation, Fursman said:

"It was a difference of opinion. That's all you can really say. They had an opinion. I had an opinion. And we agreed that I would resign. That was a satisfactory thing for them and a proper thing for me. There is no anger on anybody's part."

According to a Teledyne spokeswoman, Fursman "officially resigned July 15. As a matter of policy we do not provide any details on personnel matters, including resignations. I can add that the resignation was not in any way related to any contract compliance issue or any other matter having to do with government contracting."

A staff member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed that Fursman was ousted when allegations were made about his handling of his expense reports. The committee is investigating Teledyne.

Havre, a former vice president for finance, told internal company investigators and attorneys that Fursman had entertained her at expensive Boston hotels and restaurants.

In a series of interviews, Havre said she notified Teledyne attorneys that Fursman had billed the cost of those get-togethers in Boston to the company--and ultimately to the government through the company's military contracts. Teledyne counsel Mary Doyle declined to comment on the case.

Havre said she voluntarily quit Teledyne to avoid any conflict of interest in her job, because of her ties to Fursman. Havre said company policy forbids financial officers from having close personal relationships with other employees. She said she now works as an industry consultant.

Fursman denied that he ever billed the cost of hotels to Teledyne and said the restaurant meals amounting to no more than $300 to the company over the course of several years.

Fursman acknowledged in the interview that in hindsight not all of the meals were related to business. "The association (with Havre) went on for several years," he said. "I bet the total wouldn't be over $300 for three years. Because of the attitudes people currently have and with the problem everybody is having, an issue was made out of it--unnecessarily but that's the way it is. It doesn't make it fair. It just makes it the way the world is."

Fursman added: "It's this whole stinking environment we are in. As jobs are getting scarce, people get desperate."

The allegations about the relationship between Fursman and Havre were first raised last year by Tim Cox, a manager at Teledyne's now closed Philbrick unit in Norwood, Mass., according to Havre and Fursman.

Cox alleged to company officials that he failed to obtain the job given to Havre because of her relationship with Fursman, according to Havre and Fursman. Both Havre and Fursman insisted that Cox's allegations were without merit. Cox could not be reached for comment.

Fursman said he does not fault the company and feels that he received a just settlement with the firm.

"It is the best thing for everybody," he said. "I don't wish anybody any harm any where. I just want it all to go away so I can get on with my life. I can still contribute to the component industry."

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