Federal grand jury hears testimony in probe of Bromwell

Investigators are looking into ex-senator's ties to builder

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

At least one state employee appeared before a federal grand jury this week as prosecutors continue their probe into former Baltimore County state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell and his relationship with a construction company that received high-profile state jobs.

Officials confirmed that an employee of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, which provided staff for the powerful Senate committee Bromwell headed for seven years until 2002, testified Tuesday.

"I am aware of one of my staffers who has been subpoenaed," Karl Aro, the department's executive director, said yesterday, adding he didn't think the employee provided valuable information. "I doubt we know anything that is on point that would help them," he said.

Neither Aro nor Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch, who provides counsel to the General Assembly, would disclose the worker's identity. "An employee happened to come to me and mention it, and I just told him what the rules were," Zarnoch said. "I don't want to tell you the employee's name, because he came to me on the side."

The grand jury activity indicates that federal investigators are proceeding with their scrutiny of the ex-senator, who resigned from his seat in 2002 to become head of the state's Injured Workers Insurance Fund. The inquiry began more than a year ago.

According to law enforcement sources, federal investigators are delving into the relationship between Bromwell and Poole and Kent Co. The company has received millions of dollars in state contracts, and in 1999 won a $41 million contract to build the juvenile justice center in Baltimore over the objections of a company that had bid $1 million less.

Poole and Kent, which specializes in large commercial projects, also installed the plumbing and ventilation systems in Bromwell's half-million-dollar Baltimore County home. Bromwell belatedly listed a debt to the firm in a 2002 financial disclosure statement filed with the State Ethics Commission.

In April, Poole and Kent received a target letter from federal investigators notifying company officials that they were the target of a probe. Such letters often indicate that indictments are imminent.

Joshua Treem, an attorney representing Bromwell, would not comment yesterday on the status of the inquiry, or whether his client also received a target letter.

"I don't want to comment on anything regarding our representation of Mr. Bromwell," Treem said.

Neither Bromwell nor a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio returned telephone messages left at their offices.

Poole and Kent is headed by W. David Stoffregen, a longtime friend of Bromwell's and a contributor to his campaign committee.

State records show that Bromwell's wife, Mary Pat Bromwell, has been employed by Namco Services Inc. Formed by the wife of another Poole and Kent executive, Namco was a subcontractor on the construction of the state juvenile justice center that opened last year in Baltimore, a project troubled by cost overruns and other problems.

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