- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

Two construction companies whose top executives bribed city inspectors may contract with the District again, now that the D.C. Council has changed suspension policies for contractors.

The D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement is drafting letters to C&F; Construction Co. and Granja Contracting Inc. stating that the District-based companies may resume contracting with the city.

Granja President Carlos Granja and C&F; President Florentino Gregorio pleaded guilty last year to bribing D.C. highway inspectors to falsify records about how much materials their companies delivered to job sites. Mr. Gregorio was sentenced in February last year to probation for a year, and Granja was sentenced to three years’ probation.

The firms had been barred from doing business with the District while formal sanctions were being considered.

The D.C. Council Sept. 16 enacted emergency legislation to overhaul rules on contractors’ suspensions. Suspended contractors now may resume competing for business with the District until a panel of city government executives reconsiders the sanctions against the firms.

The legislation had been aimed at reinstating D.C.-based Fort Myer Construction Corp., which had received a three-year suspension in April after two employees were convicted of bribing city highway inspectors. Fort Myer is the District’s largest road paver, with more than $60 million in active projects.

Several council members who voted for the legislation said Fort Myer’s suspension was too severe. They also cited concerns that hundreds of workers would lose their jobs and health benefits if the company no longer could compete for government contracts.

But the legislation — which did not identify Fort Myer by name — was broad enough to apply to C&F; Construction and Granja Contracting, said the city’s chief procurement officer, Jacques Abadie III.

Mr. Abadie said he had no choice but to reinstate the two firms.

Fort Myer’s suspension sparked disagreement between Mr. Abadie and several council members about the extent of the company’s involvement in a four-year scheme to bribe city engineers and road inspectors beginning in 1995.

Company executives said they knew nothing of the scheme and blamed the crimes on employees of District Paving, a company that was acquired by Fort Myer in 1995.

Fort Myer officials said they do not deserve to be suspended because of the actions of “rogue employees,” and that their company has undertaken reforms.

A city government source said D.C. political fund-raiser Kerry Pearson lobbied the council on behalf of the company.

Mr. Pearson, who also owns D.C.-based A-1 Construction, has not lobbied on behalf of Fort Myer in the past, according to D.C. Office of Campaign Finance records.

Council member Carol Schwartz, at-large Republican, opposed the legislation, resulting in an amendment that kept in place the suspension against Fort Myer’s asphalt division until the new panel reviewed Mr. Abadie’s ruling against the firm.

But Mr. Abadie said the amendment probably would not keep Fort Myer from bidding on contracts. “They bid as a company,” he said. “They don’t bid as a division.”

Mr. Abadie’s suspension of Fort Myer also applied to company President Jose Rodriguez and Vice President Lewis Shrensky.

They founded the company in 1972, and neither was charged in the federal bribery investigation.

In recently unsealed court documents, federal prosecutors identify Granja and Mr. Gregorio as presidents of companies that authorities believe formed as offshoots of Fort Myer.

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