Barry Stephen Robinson, the 65-year-old former Baltimore City transit chief in charge of the free Charm City Circulator bus and water-taxi service who was indicted on federal bribery and money-laundering charges yesterday, is seriously in debt and has had other legal troubles in recent years.
Robinson unsuccessfully sought bankruptcy protection in 2012, listing among his liabilities an IRS lien of nearly $70,000 (the amount he allegedly sought for 13 unused city-owned bus shelters, according to the indictment) and another $12,000 in federal tax debt. In 2011, an old homeowners-association judgment against Robinson from Culpeper, Virginia, caught up with him in Baltimore, where a court writ of wage-garnishment was filed with the city's Department of Transportation.
Also in 2011, Robinson pleaded guilty in Charles County to driving while under the influence of alcohol and was sentenced to spending 13 consecutive weekends in jail. Online court records suggest he's apparently struggled to serve the sentence, though several prosecutions for violating his probation in that case have been dismissed at the prosecutor's request, most recently in July, and the docket indicates his health problems have been a factor in the case. In addition, Robinson has repeatedly faced other traffic charges over the years in Maryland, often for driving on a suspended license or without a license, or for driving an uninsured, unregistered vehicle.
In a cached speaker's biography for the 2012 BusCon Expo, an annual bus-industry gathering, Robinson is described as having 25 years experience in "financial operations and program administration on the municipal level," including in Washington, D.C., government, where he was budget director for the city's lottery and CFO for its public library and health department. He'd also served as recreation-and-parks director and deputy director of management and budget for the City of Alexandria, Virginia, the bio says.
Robinson's indictment appears to be based on his interactions with one individual, dubbed "Person A" in the indictment. Person A, who owns what the indictment calls "Business #1," twice in 2013 rejected Robinson's alleged bribe offer: that Business #1's debt for Circulator advertising, which Person A had tried to pay off with a check, would be erased if Person A paid a lesser amount to Robinson instead of the city. The third time, in January 2014—presumably after telling authorities and prompting an investigation—Person A went through with the alleged bribe scheme. Robinson also allegedly proposed the bus-shelter scheme to Person A, who ultimately agreed to buy the shelters and gave Robinson $70,000 in April.
While the indictment states that Robinson told Person A he wanted the $70,000 to "pad" his retirement, Robinson's financial problems suggest the alleged schemes may have been an ill-fated effort to get out of debt.