Former Maryland Transportation Secretary Harry R. Hughes told a joint legislative oversight committee today that the three-member Board of Public Works "twisted and distorted" state regulations in refusing to award a management contract on the Baltimore subway to a firm recommended by his department.
Hughes, who resigned in protest two week ago, said today that the board, which comprises Gov. Marvin Mandel, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein and Treasurer William R. James, showed "an unwillingess to listen to facts and reason, and a willingness to twist things and distort things" during a 4 1/2-month debate over the naming of a firm to supervise construction of the $721 million project.
The board finally rejected the contract bid of the recommended firm of Ralph M. Parsons Co. on March 2, after Victor Frenkil, a long-time friend of Mandel and Goldstein protested that Parson's bid was $5 million higher than that of a consortium that included Frenkil's Baltimore Contractors Inc., as a major subcontractor.
Hughes repeated his charge today that Frenkil had "tampered" with the selection process. In an answer to a question by Sen. John J. Bishop (R-Baltimore County), Hughes said, "Yes. I think he (Frenkil) had a part in it. I can't prove it, but I can't believe otherwise."
Another witness at today's inquiry, Sen. Harry J. McGuirk (D-Baltimore), denied that he ever spoke to state officials in behalf of Frenkil. McGuirk was critical of Hughes' department, saying the rules set up for submitting bids were confusing.
"It's a mystery to me how they (the procedures) were developed," McGuirk said.
Hughes earlier had said that McGuirk and Del. William H. Cox Jr. (D-Harfor) had "extolled the virtues" of Frenkil to Walter J. Addison, head of the transportation department's Mass Transit Administration and one of five members of the committee that selected Parsons to get the job.
"I've never approached Mr. Addison or any member of the board," McGuirk said. He suggested that his name came up because he and Cox had dinner with Addison last June 21 to discuss a matter "entirely unrelated to the Baltimore subway."
Despite his professed lack of interest, McQuirk sided with Frenkil in questioning the department's recommendation of the Parsons firm. McGuirk said that all three members of the selection board who are department employees had connections with either Parsons or the consortium that was ranked second by the board.
Even though the three employees were cleared by the state's Ethics Board, McGuirk said the board ruled only on the question of whether they stood to make a financial gain as the result of their decision. The question of "the appearance of favoritism" was not considered, McGuirk said.
Huges told Sen. Meyer Emanuel (D-Prince George's) that he didn't object to Frankil's protest of the department recommendation, but added "he (Frenkil) was wrong, and it doesn't take seven months (of consideration) to find that out."
The selection committee's recommendation of Parsons was given to the works board last Nov. 5, but it delayed acting while looking into Frenkil's contention that the state would save $5 million by giving the job to his combine instead.
Hughes insisted - and he is supported by the federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration (UMTA) - that cost was not the foremost criterion in selecting a management consultant.
Del. Gerald J. Curran (D-Baltimore), chairman of the oversight committee, said Treasurer James, as the legislature's representative to the works board, and James J. O'Donnell, acting secretary of the The Transportation Department, invited to appear before the committee next Wednesday.
Curran indicated the inquiry might continue throughout the summer.