Utech president defends company

E-mails to officials deny wrongdoing

March 24, 2006|By DOUG DONOVAN | DOUG DONOVAN,SUN REPORTER

The president of the contractor that employs Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon's sister defended herself this week against allegations of wrongdoing, even as another company said yesterday it has received a subpoena from state prosecutors.

In an e-mail sent to dozens of people - including top City Hall officials - Mildred E. Boyer, president of Union Technologies, said her company has been wrongly accused amid questions into the actions of Dixon.

"Over the past several weeks articles have appeared in the Baltimore Sun newspaper that have brought my personal integrity and that of my company, Utech, into question," Boyer wrote in the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun. "This letter is intended to inform you that I deny any wrongdoing on my part and that of my company."

Union Technologies - or Utech - employs the council president's sister and has caused ethical problems for Dixon since The Sun first reported last month that the council president may have violated city ethics law by participating in discussion of and voting on contracts that benefited the firm.

Prosecutors last week subpoenaed the city's two minority business agencies, the council's records office and Comcast cable television officials for documents related to Utech. They have also issued several subpoenas related to another city contractor with ties to Dixon.

Though Dixon's office has acknowledged some ethical missteps, she said Wednesday that prosecutors are "trying to destroy my character" with the investigation.

"My character is being discredited," she said.

Boyer has not responded to repeated phone calls and e-mails from The Sun since the newspaper's first report.

But in the e-mail distributed Wednesday, Boyer also revealed that her company has been recertified by the city as a minority-owned firm. The city stripped Utech of the certification last month after determining that its downtown office was nothing more than a telephone and a mailbox.

Boyer's e-mail, which The Sun confirmed with two of the recipients, appears to have been sent to dozens of prominent business and government officials.

Listed recipients include Mayor Martin O'Malley's chief of staff, Clarence T. Bishop; city transportation director Alfred H. Foxx; and several developers, including Ronald H. Lipscomb, Theo C. Rodgers and Kenneth Banks.

The city's decertification of Utech came after Sun articles detailing Dixon's ties to the firm, which has employed the council president's sister, Janice Dixon, since February 2004.

An official with the city's minority business opportunity office said yesterday that Utech was recertified March 15 after the office confirmed that its new address, at 3426-A S. Hanover St., was capable of accommodating meetings with customers.

The new address listed with the city is also the address for another company, A-Plus Auto Sales and Detailing. A person answering the phone for the auto firm said Utech's office is upstairs from the detailing shop.

"Union Technologies LLC has cured the technical matter of the location and address of my admin office and warehouse, an issue raised by the [business opportunity office]," Boyer's e-mail states.

She wrote that her new certification should put to rest "any concerns that may have been raised within your organization."

"In fact, I hope that your comfort level about doing business with me has also been reinstated to the extent that it was adversely affected in the first place," Boyer wrote. "I look forward to a continued business relationship with you and your organization."

State prosecutors have begun a wide-ranging probe into Utech and city contracts.

An Annapolis-based company confirmed yesterday that it has received a subpoena. A spokesman for TeleCommunications Systems Inc. said that state prosecutors have demanded documents relating to its contract to manage the city's computers, a job the company performs with Utech.

City officials have confirmed that prosecutors have subpoenaed the minority business opportunity office, the mayor's office of minority business development and the council services agency for records pertaining to Utech.

Utech had been a minority subcontractor for Comcast under the company's contract with the city to provide cable television to Baltimore. Comcast stopped using Utech in November, but its officials have declined to say why. A Comcast spokesman said the company received a subpoena for records related to Utech.

At a public hearing held last month to review Comcast's use of minority subcontractors, Dixon asked a Comcast official why it stopped using several firms, including Utech.

When asked after the hearing whether her sister works for one of the companies that has done business with Comcast, Dixon said yes. She demanded to know who alerted a reporter to the information and declined to identify the company.

"You figure it out," she said. "I'm not trying to hide anything."

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