Federal prosecutors revealed late yesterday that they electronically recorded former state senator Thomas L. Bromwell during an investigation of kickbacks for construction contracts at a building in downtown Baltimore, a disclosure that came as a fourth suspect pleaded guilty in the massive probe that centers on the once-powerful lawmaker.
A cooperating witness wore a wire as early as 2001 to record conversations involving Bromwell and his longtime friend James Eick, then the property manager of the Candler Building, according to a factual summary prepared by prosecutors. The summary was filed in federal court in Baltimore in conjunction with Eick's guilty plea to one count of mail fraud.
The summary, which Eick admitted in court was accurate, says Bromwell paid Eick a total of $6,500 to award contracts to Bromwell's company, Dallas Construction, from 2000 to 2002. It says Eick also took more than $30,000 from the cooperating witness in exchange for steering work to the witness's company, Arch/Con Development. The cooperating witness is identified as general contractor Paul Matthews.
Eick took payments from Bromwell and Matthews without the knowledge of Eick's employer, Boston Properties, then the Candler Building's owner, or the building tenants, according to the summary.
The summary alleges misconduct involving the former lawmaker that was not previously disclosed. The Candler Building merits only a passing mention in the 30-count racketeering indictment returned last month against Bromwell, his wife, Mary Pat, and construction industry executive W. David Stoffregen.
That indictment accuses Bromwell of using his influence inside and outside of government to benefit Stoffregen and the company Stoffregen then headed, Poole and Kent. In exchange, it says, Bromwell received concealed payments of more than $190,000, free or discounted construction services at his home and other favors. Bromwell left the state Senate in 2002 to head a state agency, the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund.
The Bromwells and Stoffregen have pleaded not guilty. An attorney for Bromwell declined to comment yesterday on Eick's guilty plea or the allegations it raises.
Eick's attorney, Gerald C. Ruter, said: "Given the evidence the government had against Mr. Eick, he never thought about taking the case to trial. . . . He felt as though he needed to take responsibility."
The documents filed yesterday do not detail what was said by Bromwell or anyone else during the conversations recorded by the FBI. Bromwell has not been charged in connection with the kickbacks and other schemes described in the factual summary.
In addition to participating in the kickback scheme, the summary says, Bromwell, Eick and Matthews agreed to inflate the cost of work done at the building and to split the proceeds.
In one instance, the summary says, the three agreed in summer 2000 that Matthews would charge Boston Properties $30,500 to move its offices between floors of the building even though the work would cost less than $16,000. It says Matthews hired Dallas as a subcontractor, paying Bromwell for carpentry work and an additional $3,900 for his share of the inflated profits.
A second instance involved a renovation for a building tenant, Johns Hopkins University's Center for Communication Programs, late in 2001 and the next year.
Bromwell, Eick and Matthews met Dec. 7, 2001, to discuss the job, the summary says. They agreed that Matthews would submit a $37,500 proposal, according to the summary, and Eick said he would to try to determine Hopkins's budget for the work. When Eick learned that Hopkins was prepared to pay more, he had his secretary prepare a proposal that was nearly $10,000 higher.
The summary says that the next April, Matthews cut Eick a check for $10,000, his share of the inflated profits. It says Matthews gave Bromwell a check for $2,000 at a meeting at Bromwell's home a short time later, withholding from him that Eick had increased the amount of the contract.
"In that meeting, Bromwell complained that his share was not higher, saying that he had expected to receive closer to $4,000," the summary says.
Eick, 48, has agreed to cooperate with investigators. Mail fraud is punishable by as much as 20 years in prison, although Ruter said he will ask for probation. The summary says Eick met with FBI agents in October 2002 and admitted that he had received kickbacks from Bromwell and Matthews.
Prosecutors already had obtained guilty pleas from two construction industry executives who were accused of helping Poole and Kent use a front company to appear to meet minority-participation requirements for construction projects. The third guilty plea came from a Poole and Kent project manager who oversaw work at Bromwell's Baltimore home.