A former U.S. Naval Academy official has told a federal jury that he lied to investigators to protect his former boss, Capt. James E. Weston, in an investigation of alleged contract corruption during Weston's tour as the academy's public works officer.
Eugene E. Hook, a former academy construction official who worked under Weston, testified yesterday that he told FBI and Naval Investigative Service agents that he had paid $900 to contractor Carroll Dunton for a washer and dryer delivered to Weston's wife, Mary, at the captain's home at the academy in 1985.
But Hook admitted, on further questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard C. Kay, that he lied to the agents.
"No, that wasn't true," Hook said of his statement to them. "I told them that to protect the captain."
"After everything came out [in the investigation], I told them that I'd told a falsehood," Hook testified. Weston "was my boss, and I always did things for my boss," he said.
Weston, the academy's former public works officer, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on conspiracy, bribery and obstruction of justice charges.
Prosecutors Kay and Jane F. Barrett contend that he used Hook as a go-between to solicit thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from Dunton -- the washer and dryer, two lawn mowers, gasoline for his motor home, air conditioners and a trash compactor -- in return for favored treatment that Dunton got on academy construction contracts.
Defense attorney William M. Ferris claims that Weston paid for all the merchandise he got from Dunton in cash that could not be traced, that Weston had no authority to steer contracts to anyone and that Hook, who had been demoted, arranged for Dunton to supply the items in the hope that Weston would help him win a promotion.
Hook and Dunton, who testified last week, have pleaded guilty to conspiring with Weston, who allegedly traded contract favors for "illegal gratuities." Both testified under plea bargains with the prosecution.
Hook said yesterday that the captain repeatedly asked him to call Dunton to get "the contractors' reduced price, that was how he always referred to it" on items Weston wanted for his home.
Hook said, too, that he sent Navy workers to help deliver and install the washer-dryer at Weston's home, presumably on government time.
Asked whether Dunton ever mentioned repayment for the washer and dryer, Hook testified that the contractor once told him, "It's all been taken care of."
Some time later, Dunton submitted a lone bid of $961,000 for heating, air conditioning and ventilation work on Rickover Hall, the academy's main classroom building. But the contractor became worried after he learned that the Navy had estimated the job at $619,000, and called Hook to talk about it.
Hook said he told Dunton he didn't think the contract would be awarded because the bid was too high.
"He said, 'Tell the boss if it's awarded, all is forgiven,' " Hook said.
Hook interpreted that to mean, "If the job was awarded, if we owed Mr. Dunton anything it would be negated."
Within a few days, Dunton was awarded the contract.
Two other academy officials, engineer Frederick Corey and planner Kevin Rohrbach, testified yesterday that Weston pushed them for a bid analysis on the Rickover Hall job favorable to Dunton, and pressed them as well to justify awards of two architectural and engineering jobs to specific firms for work at Bancroft Hall, the midshipmen's dormitory.
Corey said he did "a cursory analysis" on the Rickover Hall bid and signed back-dated documents on the Bancroft Hall job "so we could have something in the file" to justify contracts that Weston awarded.
"He came to me and told me he wanted those A&Es [architectural and engineering firms] to do the work," Corey said. "He definitely wanted it awarded, and he wanted it done immediately."
Rohrbach said he, too, signed documents on the Bancroft Hall job at Weston's behest, knowing that "no meetings were held" to reach conclusions which justified the awards.
Rohrbach also testified that he called one of the architectural firms at Weston's behest to tell a company official about the pending contracts. He said he didn't think his action was improper, adding that he had never done it before Weston asked him to and has not done it since.