State records subpoenaed in probe tied to Bromwell

Ex-General Services chief interviewed about project

May 26, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Federal investigators have subpoenaed state agency records and have interviewed a Cabinet secretary to former Gov. Parris N. Glendening in the probe of a contracting company and its ties to former Baltimore County Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell.

A subpoena went to the state Department of General Services, which oversaw construction of a new $46 million juvenile justice center in Baltimore built by contractors Poole and Kent Co., sources familiar with the investigation said yesterday. Details on the records requested were not immediately available.

Also yesterday, Peta N. Richkus, past head of the General Services Department, confirmed that federal investigators asked her about the juvenile center project.

Richkus was director of the agency during construction, which was beset by delays and cost overruns. Poole and Kent recently disclosed in federal filings that it is the target of a federal inquiry related to the use of minority subcontractors on projects in Maryland.

"They were inquiring about the juvenile justice center and Senator Bromwell," Richkus said of her hourlong interview with two FBI investigators that took place about six weeks ago. "I had very little contact with Senator Bromwell, and that's why I had very little information to provide."

Bromwell is currently the head of the Injured Workers Insurance Fund, a state-created agency that provides workers' compensation insurance for many Maryland businesses. He is close friends with Poole and Kent executive W. David Stoffregen.

Poole and Kent did extensive construction work on Bromwell's half-million-dollar Loch Raven home a few years ago while Bromwell was in office, but records indicate that the senator did not immediately pay for the services.

Additionally, Bromwell's wife is listed in state records as a salaried employee of a company used by Poole and Kent as a minority subcontractor on the juvenile justice project.

Richkus said yesterday that she recalled speaking with Bromwell about the juvenile contract during a dispute as the project was nearing completion. Poole and Kent said it was owed $9 million, but the state challenged the claim.

"He wanted to make sure that the state was treating the contractor fairly," Richkus said, referring to Bromwell's telephone call to her.

She said she did not think the call was unusual.

"There certainly were legitimate claims for additional money," she said. "I wanted Poole and Kent to be treated fairly. I thought they had done a good job."

Richkus said investigators indicated that she was not a target of the inquiry. She has not appeared before a grand jury.

A Securities and Exchange Commission filing last month by Poole and Kent's corporate parent disclosed that the Baltimore contracting firm has been sent a target letter in the investigation, a sign that indictments may be imminent.

In the filing, EMCOR Group Inc. of Connecticut disclosed that its records had been subpoenaed in July last year as part of the same federal probe. A grand jury, the filing states, "is investigating, among other things, Poole and Kent's use of minority and woman-owned enterprises."

Bromwell's financial disclosure filings show that his wife, Mary Pat, was a salaried employee of a woman-owned firm, Namco Services Corp., in 2001 and 2002. The company received $580,000 in structural steel and other work on the juvenile building. Namco was founded by Geraldine Forti, the wife of former Poole and Kent executive Michael Forti.

Neither Bromwell nor Stoffregen returned telephone calls seeking comment yesterday. An FBI spokesman said the agency does not comment on active investigations.

Richkus was head of the Department of General Services from 1999 until Glendening left office in January 2003. She said that her predecessor in the job, Eugene R. Lynch, managed the solicitation process for the juvenile services building that resulted in the selection of Poole and Kent, although the choice was formally authorized during her tenure.

The company has participated in other high-profile state projects, such as the construction of M&T Bank Stadium.

Lynch said in an interview yesterday that he has not been contacted by federal officials and that he does not recall speaking to Bromwell about the project.

Before taking the IWIF job, Bromwell, 55, was chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. He was regarded as one of the most influential lawmakers in Annapolis and a potential successor to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. His son, Eric, is a state delegate from Baltimore County.

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