Balto. Co. senator lands drywall work in Russia Bromwell contract grew from controversial tours

December 18, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's exchange tours with German lawmakers brought him a wave of public criticism in 1990 -- and a construction contract in Russia this year.

The Democratic legislator, who runs a tiny commercial construction company from his Perry Hall townhouse, has a crew hanging drywall in a hospital being built near Moscow -- thanks to his friendship with a German legislator, he says.

The contract for installing 200,000 square feet of drywall is worth about $400,000, Bromwell says. The contract, which could bring a big boost to Bromwell's company, offers an odd twist and economic benefit from the controversial tours. But the international connection was unexpected, he says, given the contrast between his private and public lives.

"One day I'm on my knees putting tile in the men's room of the Silver Spring Inn, and the next day I'm chairman of the Senate Finance Committee," he says.

The tours were sponsored and partially paid for by a nonprofit European group called the Partnership of Parliaments. Plans to have lobbyists, businesses and labor groups help pay travel costs for 13 Maryland legislators caused a furor, and the officials ended up paying their airfares.

Now, Peter Dehn, a German businessman and former legislator Bromwell met during a similar trip to Europe in 1986, has helped Bromwell land a job beyond his wildest imagination.

Bromwell says it could open doors for his company, Dallas Inc. Until now, it had one full-time employee and one permanent contract -- maintenance for a chain of local convenience stores.

Bromwell's company, named for his 10-month-old son, has a crew of four men working at the Bakulev Cardiovascular Institute, about 30 miles southeast of Moscow, he says. Four to six workers will join them next month.

Dallas Inc. is working under a contract managed by G.O.W. International of Dundalk, which is run by three partners, one a friend of Bromwell and Dehn.

Dehn, from Hanover in Lower Saxony, said he became enamored of Maryland after befriending Bromwell and other Maryland legislators during their visits to Germany. Dehn since has visited Maryland and has stayed at Bromwell's home.

Maryland "is a beautiful state," Dehn says, adding that he particularly likes the easy access to the Chesapeake Bay and mountains -- and the proximity to Washington for his consulting business.

When he became a consultant on the hospital job in Russia, he sought out a Maryland business to be general contractor, he says, and chose G.O.W. because of its international reputation.

Charles J. Gallagher, one of the partners in the 21-year-old company, says he was sitting at a downtown Baltimore hotel months ago making small talk with Dehn when Bromwell's name -- and new occupation -- came up.

Gallagher has known Bromwell for 30 years as a Rosedale resident and patron of the Bromwell Inn on Belair Road. Bromwell once managed the family-owned restaurant.

Because the contract is financed by Bank of America and requires that U.S. materials, workers and shipping amount to at least 85 percent of the work, G.O.W. offered Bromwell a chance to do the drywall work, Gallagher said. Bromwell visited the site in August, and decided to try the project.

The trip was an eye-opener, he says, especially in light of the drab Communist-run Moscow he had seen in 1978.

"I'm sitting in a restaurant called La Cantina drinking Tuborg beer and listening to a [Russian] country-western band," he says. Another night, he and his foreman ate at the All American Sports Bar and gazed at walls adorned with baseball cards featuring Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Mussina.

The shell of the hospital was built 12 years ago by a Turkish company, and some interior work was done by an East German company that later went bankrupt.

His piece of the job is to build hallways, rooms and ceilings around German-produced metal operating cubicles installed on the vacant floors, he says.

Gallagher's company, which is completing a three-story wing, arranged for shipment of materials from Baltimore to the site.

Pub Date: 12/18/96

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