Friends describe Victor Frenkil as a man who views the construction business as a bare-knuckles, no-holds-barred street brawl with the single goal of winning contracts.
Given such a view, it is not unusual that the name of this 73-year-old self-made millionaire has surfaced in many of the major Maryland contracting skirmishes since the 1940s and why he remains an enduring and legendary character in the state's sometimes inglorious history.
For two years he was embroiled as the central figure in a $5 million cost overrun national controversy in the construction of twin underground garages at the Capitol in Washington. A special federal grand jury tried to indict Frenkil for allegedly bribing federal officials to collect his over-run claim.
Then-U.S. Attorney General John N. Mitchell blocked the indictment. Frenkil and his "associates," a Justice Department memo proclaimed, were only "heavy-handed." He eventually won $3,000 in his recovery suit against the government.
In supporting roles, the Baltimore businessman's name has appeared in controversies involving Gov. Marvin Mandel, the Pallotine fathers, Attorney General Francis B. Burch, Comptroller Louis Goldstein and former Sen. Daniel J. Brewster.
It is an impressive list that reflects the extraordinary success of Baltimore Contractors, Inc., the firm that Frenkil built from scratch after the Depression.
The FBI Academy at Quantico, Va., the new Federal Courthouse in Baltimore, part of the Bay Bridge, the Baltimore Civic Center, the University of Maryland stadium, innumerable tunnels, hospitals and department stores are the monuments to Frenkel's skill at winning contracts.
There are other projects as well that are testimonies to the flamboyant side of Victor Frenkil, the man whose trademark is artfully folding dollar bills to form the recipient's initials.
When other developers were climbing out of their doomed Ocean City condominiums, it was Frenkil who chartered airplanes to convoy glamorous custmers to his condominium, the Golden Sands, which he still promotes.
With the same panache, Frenkil neutralized two U.S. attorneys and an 11-month-long jury investigation into his construction of the $11.8 million underground garage.
In constructing the House of Representatives underground garages, Frenkil employed a new method for bracing walls and then filed for $5 million in overrun costs because of the new method. The claim was denied.
For the next four years Frenkil called on his powerful political freinds, such as the entire Maryland delegation, then House Majority Whip Hale Boggs and Louisana Sen. Russel Long to aid him in recovering the money, according to the grand jury report summary.
The U.S. attorneys in Baltimore, Stephen H. Sachs and later George Beall, moved to indict Frenkiel on a conspiracy charge, but Mitchell intervened. In the grand jury report there were allegations of bribes, threats to federal employees and favoritism - like providing Boggs with $45,000 of remodeling work on his home atthe discount price of $21,000.