Bribe-takers could risk retirement pay

October 27, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Floyd Wilbur Dearborn appeared to be just another anonymous midlevel city bureaucrat. But working for Baltimore's Public Works Department paid off for him in a big way.

He reaped more than $100,000 in cash, gifts and yearly vacations to Ocean City in a bid-rigging scheme uncovered two years ago by the city's auditor and state prosecutor.

In March 1992, Dearborn pleaded guilty to accepting the bribes in return for steering lucrative contracts for sanitation equipment to two trucking equipment companies. He was sentenced to a year in jail, fined $10,000 and ordered to repay the city $25,000.

Despite his crime, the motor equipment supervisor was allowed to retire with full benefits. But City Auditor Allan L. Reynolds found that he was not alone.

Two other city workers convicted of bribery and theft were allowed to retire, although one is using his pension to pay restitution.

Another two responsible for writing bids and buying city equipment received pensions after admitting taking gifts from contractors.

In addition, Mr. Reynolds discovered two current city workers -- ......TC buyer for the Bureau of Purchases and a maintenance supervisor with Public Works -- went on trips paid for by contractors.

The lack of sanctions for breaching the city's ethics law has prompted Mr. Reynolds to call for reforms. His proposals will be debated Nov. 15 by the Board of Ethics.

"People are violating the ethics law, but there's no penalty," Mr. Reynolds said yesterday.

"If cash changes hands, there's pretty clear evidence that they were bribed. But if someone gets a trip or some other gift, there's a tendency not to recognize it as a bribe," he said.

He has proposed a series of measures to deter other employees from accepting merchandise or vacation junkets from companies doing business with the city. They include:

* Requiring city employees and elected officials to swear under oath that the information on their financial disclosure statements is true, a move that would provide criminal penalties for those who lie or deliberately omit items.

* Adding disciplinary measures, from reprimand to dismissal, for employees accepting gifts other than ceremonial awards or honorariums.

* Asking city contractors to swear that they will not offer gifts or trips, and debarring those who do so.

* Prohibiting employees found guilty of breaching the ethics law from retiring with a full city pension.

Alan R. Yuspeh, chairman of the city's ethics panel, agreed that a comprehensive review of the law may be overdue.

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