Bromwell retains IWIF post

But contractor's plea revives call for ouster of ex-state senator

November 30, 2006|By Matthew Dolan | Matthew Dolan,Sun reporter

CLARIFICATION

An article in yesterday's Maryland section gave an improper reference for a comment by a spokesman for Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley about a guilty plea from a former contracting company executive who says he bribed former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell. O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said that he found the bribery case and the guilty plea "deeply troubling," not a decision by the board of the quasi-public Injured Workers' Insurance Fund to keep Bromwell as president.

The chairman of the state's largest insurance fund for injured public employees reiterated his support yesterday for Thomas L. Bromwell, a former state senator who is now president of the fund, after a business executive admitted in court that he paid Bromwell bribes.

"The board met yesterday prior to the plea in court, and the board saw no reason to adjust the status of Senator Bromwell," said Daniel E. McKew, the board chairman of the Maryland Injured Workers' Insurance Fund.

But the accusation against the Baltimore County Democrat, once considered among Annapolis' most powerful, revived calls from a public interest group for Bromwell to step down at least temporarily and prompted a spokesman for Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley to call the chairman's support "deeply troubling."

On Tuesday, Bromwell's co-defendant, former construction executive W. David Stoffregen, pleaded guilty in federal court to racketeering and mail fraud charges, and told a federal judge he agreed with a summary of his crimes entered by prosecutors as part of his plea.

In those legal papers, prosecutors wrote that Stoffregen paid Bromwell in the form of free home construction and his wife's salary for a no-show job so that Bromwell would use his political influence to win contracts for Stoffregen's former company, Poole and Kent.

In the fall of 2000, Stoffregen told Bromwell that he would pay him about $80,000 annually to remain in the Senate rather than leave for the private sector, according to court papers. Stoffregen paid the senator a total of $192,923, disguised as salary for Mary Pat Bromwell.

This week's plea from Stoffregen has not changed Bromwell's status as president of the IWIF, a quasi-public agency whose board is appointed by the governor and manages $1.3 billion in assets and reserves.

McKew heads a nine-member board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate. Yesterday, Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said the governor could not comment on whether Bromwell should stay. "This is a decision to be made by the board, not the governor," she said.

But the incoming administration in Annapolis might try to take action next year.

"This is a deeply troubling case," Steve Kearney, spokesman for O'Malley, said yesterday. "We will review the facts when we take office, but Governor Ehrlich's IWIF board will have to decide what action to take based on yesterday's guilty plea."

A leading watchdog group in the state continued to call for Bromwell to step aside immediately while he remained under indictment.

"I think it's even more egregious now," said Bobbie Walton, the executive director of Common Cause, whose leadership first called on Bromwell in February to leave his post. "A lot more evidence has come to the surface with other people telling stories, other people pleading guilty.

The Bromwells' case is set for trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore in February. Bromwell and his wife have pleaded not guilty to racketeering and related charges.

At that point, Bromwell's status at IWIF might change.

"It would seem to be difficult," McKew said of Bromwell's ability to work while appearing in a federal courtroom for trial every day. "The board is going to consider some contingency plans."

The indictment has not affected Bromwell's stewardship of the fund, according to McKew.

"Tommy has done an excellent job of letting people do what they do best," the board chairman said, adding that Bromwell turned a multimillion-dollar deficit at the fund into a sizable surplus. "I have not seen any type of hiccup due to this situation.

McKew said his decision about Bromwell's future with the organization would not be influenced by the former senator's donation to McKew's unsuccessful run for the state legislature. The Committee to Elect Tom Bromwell donated $4,000 in October 2002 to McKew's campaign committee, according to state records.

McKew also bought two tickets at $250 apiece to a fundraiser earlier this year for Bromwell's legal defense fund.

Bromwell has a base salary of $192,868 at IWIF, agency officials said. Each year, his bonus is determined by the board and is based on his performance. His bonus in 2004 was $58,000. He also receives an allowance to lease a car.

IWIF insures one-third of Maryland businesses and their employees, as well as 67,000 state and local government employees, against the cost of workplace injuries.

matthew.dolan@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Andrew A. Green contributed to this article.

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