State OKs parking pact amid allegations Board of Public Works rejects pleas for delay from 2 losing bidders

December 19, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

Bristling at allegations of impropriety, the state Board of Public Works unanimously awarded a multimillion-dollar parking contract yesterday to a partnership involving developer Kingdon Gould Jr.

The board rejected pleas from two losing bidders that it delay action for a few months while the companies pursue appeals filed this month.

Those bidders alleged that the Maryland Aviation Administration acted in an irregular and illegal manner in selecting the Gould group to run the parking lots and garage at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and a nearby rail station.

But the board -- made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer -- appeared satisfied with the explanation of a state lawyer, who said the aviation administration did not need to follow procurement law in this case. Gould's group, Maryland Parking Limited Partnership, was the low bidder.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening said he found allegations that state officials went out of their way to help the Gould group "offensive." Still, he told the aviation agency to review its bidding procedures.

Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein also dismissed the complaints of irregularities. "High-priced lawyers can come in here and say a heck of a lot of things," he said.

Gould is a prominent developer who, with relatives and business interests, has contributed to Glendening's campaign. His partner in the parking contract, retired Army Maj. Gen. Roger R. Blunt, is an Orioles part-owner who served on Glendening's procurement task force this year.

The parking contract is expected to generate $165 million over five years. Maryland Parking Limited Partnership will keep more than $11 million of that amount, while the rest will go to the state.

Assistant Attorney General William A. Kahn told the board that after opening the initial bids, the aviation agency discovered that two of four qualified bidders, including Maryland Parking, had interpreted the requirements for minority business contractors differently than the agency had wanted.

He said agency officials decided to allow all four bidders to alter their proposals because of the apparent ambiguity in the state's request for bids. "We tried to salvage the process," Kahn said.

In both rounds of bidding, state officials have said, Maryland Parking offered the state the lowest price.

Kahn acknowledged that the agency opened the bids in secret, as the protesting bidders had charged, but he claimed such secrecy was neither "unreasonable" nor illegal.

His comment surprised an attorney for one of the protesters, Ampco Parking Systems. "That is absolutely off the wall," said Neal M. Janey, Baltimore's former city solicitor.

Ampco, with Cleveland-based APCOA Inc., filed protests this month with the state Board of Contract Appeals, which could uphold or overturn yesterday's award. Representatives of the two companies declined to say if they would proceed with those appeals.

APCOA, the current parking operator, also contends that Maryland Parking is not qualified to hold the contract because it failed to file necessary documents establishing the partnership before it bid on the contract.

Gould of Maryland Parking denied that charge and the "scurrilous innuendo" about the bidding process. "We've played by the rules. We've played on the up-and-up. We've played fair," he said.

Theodore E. Mathison, executive director of the aviation administration, said, "There was absolutely no outside influence" brought to bear in the selection.

Gould, his family and businesses in which he or his son is an officer, principal, partner or agent have contributed more than $13,000 to Glendening's campaign fund. Blunt and his Blunt Enterprises contributed more than $2,000.

A partner of one of the protesting bidders gave $3,000 to the governor's campaign.

Penn Parking Inc., the fourth qualified bidder, has not disputed the process.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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