City contractor with ties to Bromwell investigated

Federal prosecutors notify Poole & Kent

it did work for state, ex-lawmaker

May 12, 2004|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

A major Baltimore contracting firm with close ties to former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell and his wife has been sent a target letter by federal prosecutors stating that the company is the subject of a federal probe and indicating an indictment might be imminent.

The investigation involves among other things the company's use of certain subcontractors, according to a report filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC report said the April 26 target letter was sent to Poole and Kent Co., the contracting firm that did extensive work on Bromwell's new half-million-dollar Baltimore County home two years ago when Bromwell was a state senator. Poole and Kent, which has won multimillion-dollar contracts for several major publicly funded projects in the state, is owned by the EMCOR Group Inc. of Connecticut.

The target letter follows subpoenas issued for records of the company and requests for records from the state General Assembly, where Bromwell once held a powerful committee chairmanship. Federal investigators are also looking into the connections between Bromwell and Poole and Kent.

Bromwell now heads the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, a state-created agency that sells workers compensation insurance to Maryland employers.

"On April 26, 2004, Poole and Kent was advised that it is a target of the grand jury investigation. Poole and Kent is cooperating with the investigation," the EMCOR Group Inc. disclosed in a 32-page quarterly filing with the SEC dated April 29.

A U.S. Justice Department manual describes a target as a person or entity "whom the prosecutor or the grand jury has substantial evidence linking him or her to the commission of a crime and who, in the judgment of the prosecutor, is a putative defendant." Defense attorneys and former federal prosecutors said target letters are generally sent to likely defendants just before indictments are issued.

Bromwell did not respond yesterday to a request for comment, nor did officials of Poole and Kent.

In the SEC filing, EMCOR also disclosed for the first time that its records had been subpoenaed in July last year as part of the same federal probe.

The grand jury, the filing states, "is investigating, among other things, Poole and Kent's use of minority and woman-owned enterprises."

State records show that Bromwell's wife, Mary Pat Bromwell, was employed by Namco Services Inc., a woman-owned enterprise that has worked as a subcontractor to Poole and Kent. State Department of General Services records show Namco was a subcontractor to Poole and Kent on the construction of a new state juvenile justice center that opened last year in Baltimore.

Wife's job, debt

In an annual report filed last year with the state Ethics Commission, Bromwell disclosed that his wife had been a salaried employee of Namco in 2001 and 2002.

In that same report, Bromwell listed an outstanding debt to Poole and Kent for work the firm did installing the heating and ventilation systems in a house he was having built in 2000. The $566,250 home is in the 9300 block of Ravenridge Road. County building permits for the Poole and Kent work were issued Aug. 8, 2000.

Bromwell, 55, was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee when he stepped down from the General Assembly in May 2002.

The juvenile justice center in Baltimore is one of several publicly funded projects in which Poole and Kent has been involved - a contract it landed while Bromwell was in office. The company also worked on the Ravens stadium, now known as M&T Bank Stadium.

Contract contested

When Poole and Kent was awarded the justice center contract in 1999, the decision was contested by a competing company that had submitted a bid $1 million lower. The challenge was rejected by a state contract appeals board and a circuit court judge. Originally estimated at about $41 million, the final tab on the justice center reached $46 million.

In its filing with the SEC, EMCOR disclosed that after the July 2003 subpoena, the federal grand jury had issued additional subpoenas for company records. The company complied, according to the report.

About a month after the initial Poole and Kent subpoena, the FBI sent a letter to the Maryland General Assembly asking for a list of staffers who worked for Bromwell between 1998 and 2002. In response, assembly staffers sent the FBI a list of 18 names. The FBI has declined to comment on the reasons for the request.

Poole and Kent is headed by W. David Stoffregen, a longtime friend of Bromwell's and a contributor to his campaign committee. In April 1999 the Senate passed a Bromwell-sponsored resolution congratulating Stoffregen and Poole and Kent for nothing in particular. In the same year, the Maryland-based mechanical contracting firm was bought out by EMCOR.

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