HUD likely to ban contractors


Two contractors charged last week with making illegal payments to employees of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City will likely be barred -- at least temporarily -- from doing business with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, federal officials said yesterday.

Maxine Saunders, acting state coordinator for HUD's Baltimore field office, said she "would anticipate" her agency would take quick action to keep the two contractors from getting additional work while the criminal charges are pending.

Ms. Saunders and Howard L. Sims, an attorney with HUD's Baltimore office, said they were awaiting formal notification of criminal charges filed last Friday against Sedrick F. Chavis, president of Sedrick F. Chavis Construction Inc., and Anthony R. Snell, head of Bryce Construction.

Mr. Sims said HUD wanted to make sure the "i's are dotted and the t's are crossed," but said the filing of charges was reason enough for it to act.

"We do not have to wait for conviction," he said.

Mr. Chavis and Mr. Snell were the first contractors to be charged in a federal probe into fraud at the Housing Authority. An authority engineer and top authority official who administered a $25 million no-bid repair program earlier pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from contractors who did work for the agency.

Baltimore HUD officials said their office could act to prevent the two contractors from getting additional work for up to a year from housing authorities in Baltimore and elsewhere in Maryland. The contractors would have up to 20 days to appeal such action, they said.

More severe action, including suspension and lengthy debarment, could only be taken by HUD officials in Washington, they said.

Any action taken against the two would apply only to future work and not to existing agreements since HUD was not part of the contracts, they said.

But they added that the Housing Authority could take its own action to end any current contracts.

Housing Authority officials said yesterday that they were still trying to determine how much work Chavis Construction and Bryce Construction had done for the authority in the past and whether they are currently under contract to do repairs for the authority.

Authority Executive Director Daniel P. Henson III said yesterday that Chavis Construction, which received $3.5 million under the agency's no-bid repair program, "has done considerable work for the authority over the years."

But he said he was not familiar with Bryce Construction.

City officials said yesterday that they had no records of either contractor doing work for other city agencies for the past several years.

If the contractors are convicted of bribery or other procurement-related offenses, they could also be barred from getting future state and local government contracts, city and state officials said.

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