Ex-Frederick official admits taking money


The former director of permits in Frederick yesterday pleaded guilty to receiving about $30,000 in bribes and extortion payments from construction contractors and developers over a four-year period.

Balachandra P. K. Menon, 51, of Frederick entered his pleas to three federal charges in U.S. District Court in Baltimore before Judge Marvin J. Garbis. Sentencing is set for Nov. 4.

Menon also is scheduled to plead guilty to six state bribery charges in Frederick County Circuit Court next Tuesday, according to Frederick County State's Attorney Lawrence A. Dorsey Jr.

Under separate plea agreements with the U.S. attorney's office and Mr. Dorsey's office, prosecutors are recommending that Menon receive concurrent 18-month sentences in federal and state courts. The federal term would be without parole. The charges resulted from a joint investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement officials. The probe was launched in November.

Menon was assistant city engineer in Frederick from April 1980 to November 1990, when he was promoted to director of the city's permits and code management office.

He was fired March 18 for ethics violations related to the scandal. A statement of facts prepared by First Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary P. Jordan said Menon used his positions to solicit and extort money from contractors from September 1988 to March 1992.

The statement said he solicited and received a $1,000 bribe from JJ&M; Masonry Contractors for his efforts in helping the company receive a $62,679 city contract to install a brick sidewalk in September 1988.

In June 1989, the statement said, Menon pressured a developer, Richard Brinker, into lending him $2,000 after his office cited a number of flaws in Mr. Brinker's construction projects in the city. He also tried to persuade Mr. Brinker to lend him an additional $5,000 in December 1989 but backed off when the contractor asked for a letter from the mayor saying Menon was permitted to accept loans from developers.

The statement also said Menon accepted a $2,000 bribe in May 1990 from a utility contractor to install a sanitary sewer line and pump station at the Frederick Municipal Airport and attempted to extort $1,000 from an excavation firm in March.

Mr. Jordan said that no contractors have been charged in the matter but that the investigation is continuing.

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