City worker said to order unnecessary repair work

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A city public works employee has been accused of taking kickbacks from a boiler company whose business dealings with Baltimore public schools also are under investigation, city and school officials said yesterday.

Cecil Thrower, who was suspended without pay Tuesday from his job as a Department of Public Works heating and air conditioning technician, is suspected of hiring All State Boiler Service Inc. to do unnecessary repairs for the city in exchange for money and gifts, Baltimore officials said.

A woman affiliated with the Baltimore-based company, Ida Marie Beran, has been charged with conspiracy to commit theft over $500.

State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh announced yesterday that criminal charges had been filed against Thrower and Beran, but he declined to offer any details beyond those disclosed in two charging documents.

One of the documents states that Thrower received an undisclosed amount of money and gifts between Sept. 1, 1998, and July 1, 2004, "to influence ... his performance of his official duties as a public employee."

The other says that between Jan. 1, 1995 and Dec. 31, 2003, Beran conspired with Thrower "and other unnamed co-conspirators" to fraudulently bill the public works department in excess of $500.

The documents do not name All State, and Rohrbaugh said he could not discuss any connection between the charges and the company.

"That's going beyond what I can tell you at this point," he said.

All State shares an address with Beran in the 100 block of W. Hamburg St.

A woman who answered the phone at the company took a message for Beran but declined to say what her position was. Beran and other All State officials did not return calls seeking comment.

Thrower could not be reached for comment. Both defendants are scheduled to be arraigned in city Circuit Court tomorrow at 9 a.m.

Robert Murrow, public works spokesman, said prosecutors had informed the department that the case involves All State.

An 18-year public works veteran who made about $36,000 a year, Thrower was responsible for any repairs needed on two large steam boilers at the Back River Wastewater Treatment Plant, Murrow said.

If the city crews he oversaw could not handle the work, Thrower was authorized to hire All State, which had won a city contract to provide such services on an as-needed basis, Murrow said.

"According to the prosecutor, he was calling in for repairs that were unnecessary and they were billing us and he was getting a kickback," Murrow said.

The dollar value of the alleged scheme was not disclosed in the charging documents, and Murrow said he did not know the figure.

The city paid All State a total of $120,504 in fiscal 2002 and $60,254 in fiscal 2003, according to purchasing records.

State prosecutors are also looking at All State's dealings with city schools, said Vanessa Pyatt, a schools spokeswoman.

"There's an ongoing investigation," Pyatt said. "We are cooperating fully with" prosecutors.

The city school system has a contract with All State, but Pyatt, noting the investigation, declined to say how much the system has paid to the company or how long the business relationship has existed. The company's contract expires next month.

Sun staff writers Laura Loh and Doug Donovan contributed to this article.

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