State prosecutor investigating actions taken by Berlin mayor Questions raised about spending

July 05, 1991|By Susan Canfora | Susan Canfora,Special to The Sun

BERLIN — In an article in the July 5 editions of The Sun about a state prosecutor's investigation of Berlin Mayor Ron Bireley, Dan West was incorrectly named as the contractor with the winning bid for work done on Berlin's electric plant. Mr. West is a building inspector for the town.

It also was incorrectly stated that Mayor Bireley is under 'N investigation for approving work at the electric plant without the town council's approval. Berlin town attorney Ray Coates Jr. said that the mayor is being investigated only for allegedly approving improvements to Town Hall without the council's approval.

The Sun regrets the errors.

BERLIN -- The mayor of the Eastern Shore town of Berlin is under investigation by the state prosecutor's office, the town attorney has confirmed.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

Mayor Ron Bireley, who has had a rocky relationship with the town council, was elected to his first term in October 1988. The investigation, several sources here say, focuses on the possible use of town funds without the council's approval for improvements to the town hall.

The awarding of a bid for improvements to the electric company owned by the town also is in dispute. The state prosecutor has been asked to determine whether Mr. Bireley received compensation from Dan West, the Berlin contractor with the winning bid. Mr. West could not be reached for comment.

Under the charter of the town, which has a population of 3,000 , any expenditure more than $1,000 must be approved by the five-member town council.

Mr. Bireley refused to comment on the investigation, but attorney Ray Coates Jr., who represents Berlin, confirmed the investigation and said he was interviewed in connection with it.

He said the state prosecutor's office should decide in two or three weeks whether to place charges.

Town Councilwoman Paula Lynch also confirmed the investigation and said she was interviewed by a member of the state prosecutor's staff.

Tom Krehely, an assistant state prosecutor involved with the probe, would not discuss it except to say no one had been charged with wrongdoing.

Town hall sources said the mayor and council members were questioned by prosecutors recently.

Controversy is nothing new to Mr. Bireley. Two weeks after he was elected mayor, he was fired from his job as finance director for Ocean City. Former City Manager Tony Barrett had complained that Mr. Bireley bypassed him in giving information to an Ocean City council member.

Berlin is about eight miles west of Ocean City.

Recently, Mr. Bireley ran into controversy in Berlin for proposing that the town go to the bond market this year for a $5.5 million loan over and above the town's $4.4 million budget.

The mayor said the additional money was needed for capital improvements, including a new spray irrigation sewage project and for upgrading the electric plant.

Subsequently, a $1.8 million bond request was approved.

Recently, two Berlin council members, Mrs. Lynch and Richard Thompson, criticized Mr. Bireley for approving $9,400 to hire Faw Cassonq, an accounting firm, to audit the town's books without approval from the town council. Mrs. Lynch called it "inexcusable," and Mr. Thompson said the mayor had promised not to make such decisions without the council's consent.

But Mr. Bireley said the council itself met in January with the accounting firm and agreed to hire it for the audit.

Brushing aside the criticism, Mr. Bireley said he plans to run for mayor again in 1992.

He said, "I ran for mayor because I really knew I had knowledge that could improve the quality of life in Berlin for its citizens and save them money in the process. I think I have done exactly that, and I will continue to do it."

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