Ex-state senator expects charges

Lawyer for Bromwell says he refused to talk to federal grand jury

September 21, 2005|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

Thomas L. Bromwell, the former five-term state senator from Baltimore County, expects to be indicted as a result of a long investigation into his ties to a local construction company, his attorney said yesterday.

"He was invited to appear before the grand jury," attorney Robert B. Schulman said. "Our answer was `no.'" Prosecutors had set today as the deadline for Bromwell's grand jury testimony, according to Schulman. The U.S. attorney's office declined to comment.

Bromwell's decision to forgo a grand jury appearance comes more than two years after federal investigators started examining the close relationship between Bromwell, who once chaired the powerful Senate Finance Committee, and Poole and Kent Co., a prominent Baltimore construction company.

"Obviously we believe that whatever we do, the government is going to seek an indictment," the attorney said.

Bromwell, 56, now heads the state Injured Workers Insurance Fund, whose board is appointed by the governor.

Poole and Kent has won multimillion-dollar local and state contracts, including the $46 million juvenile justice center in downtown Baltimore.

The company also installed the plumbing and ventilation systems in Bromwell's half-million-dollar Loch Raven home.

Bromwell's attorney described the long-running investigation as "a fishing expedition."

Bromwell and his wife received letters within the past three weeks from the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland asking for their appearance before a grand jury no later than today, Schulman said in an interview.

He said the letter was too broad to know exactly what charges federal prosecutors might be considering against the Bromwells.

Earlier this month, the inquiry took a major turn when Michael C. Forti, a former executive with Poole & Kent, secretly pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Forti admitted that he worked with other company officials to prop up his wife's subcontracting firm as a minority-owned "front" in order to keep Poole and Kent eligible for lucrative state contracts. Bromwell's wife, Mary Pat, was an employee of the subcontractor, known as Namco.

Bromwell's wife also declined to testify before the grand jury.

"Because the government refused to tell me what they were after, I didn't think it was wise for her to appear before the grand jury," Gerard Martin, an attorney for Mary Pat Bromwell, said yesterday.

About two weeks ago, the couple met with U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin, who is handling the case.

But, according to Schulman, Bromwell was first approached by federal investigators more than 3 1/2 years ago as part of a broad investigation into the political power structure in Annapolis and the money and influence surrounding the effort to bring slot machine gambling to Maryland.

When Bromwell did not give investigators the information they were seeking, Schulman said, they investigated his affairs.

"We genuinely believe that the process is flawed," Schulman said. "This was one of those cases that got DiBiagio in trouble."

Former Maryland U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio had made public corruption cases one of his top priorities.

He resigned in December, seven months after he wrote a widely criticized memo pushing his prosecutors for three "front page" indictments. Schulman said the Bromwell investigation was one of those cases.

DiBiagio could not be reached for comment last night.

Rosenstein, who became the Maryland U.S. attorney this summer, declined to talk about the case yesterday, citing a policy that federal prosecutors do not confirm or deny investigations.

Attorneys familiar with federal investigations say that inviting targets to appear before a grand jury is often one of the last steps before indictments are sought.

The court documents unsealed this month in the Forti case did not mention Bromwell, but he has been long connected to the Fortis and their companies.

According to those court documents, Michael Forti's wife, Geraldine Forti, decided in spring 1999 that she wanted to close Namco, which was her business.

But W. David Stoffregen, then Poole and Kent's president and chief executive, did not want to lose the ability to use Namco, court papers said. Namco enabled Stoffregen's company to meet minority contracting requirements on its governmental projects.

Reached yesterday, Stoffregen's lawyer said his client has not been charged with any crime. Washington-based attorney Barry Levine declined to say whether the former Poole and Kent president had been asked to testify before the grand jury.

"It would be precipitous for [prosecutors] to bring this case because they would fail," said Levine, adding that the evidence gathered in the investigation does not support an indictment against his client.

Court documents in the Forti case say that Stoffregen proposed to Michael Forti that Poole and Kent secretly operate and control Namco in exchange for regular payments to Geraldine Forti.

The Fortis agreed, according to court papers.

Some of Namco's construction work during that time included a $2.2 million contract for terminal expansion at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and a $650,000 contract at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Namco also did work on the juvenile justice center in Baltimore. Poole and Kent was not the low bidder for the center but was selected after legislators and community groups questioned whether a competing firm that offered a better price had sufficient minority participation.

The project suffered delays and cost overruns.

At some point, Michael Forti began kicking back about one-half of his wife's salary and automobile-allowance payments to Stoffregen, the court documents say.


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