Sunday, May 23, 2004

A local road-paving company whose president was convicted in a scheme to overcharge the District’s public-works department for road-paving materials is back in business with the D.C. government after winning a multimillion-dollar road-repair contract.

C&F Construction Inc. of Washington has won preliminary approval on a $3.1 million city contract to repair Reno Road NW from Nebraska Avenue NW to Military Road NW, according to the D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement.

The award comes three months after the new D.C. Debarment and Suspension Panel banned C&F Construction from doing business with the D.C. government through most of the summer. The panel had cited company president Florentine Gregorio’s involvement in a scheme to overcharge the District on federally funded road-paving jobs.

In overturning the suspension last month, panel Chairman William O. Howland Jr., interim director of the city’s public-works department, cited Mr. Gregorio’s recent attendance at a two-day class called “Government Contract Compliance” held by Federal Publications Seminar LLC.

“Further remedial measures taken by C&F and Gregorio are sufficient to prevent recurrence of the improper conduct,” the panel ruled.

Mr. Howland and panel members also cited an agreement between C&F Construction and retired U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Robert Dunn, whom the company said was hired as a consultant to advise officials on contract compliance issues.

“It is evident to the panel that C&F and Gregorio are committed to a viable corporate-compliance program,” the panel ruled.

In February, the panel criticized C&F for a lack of an effective compliance plan and said too much power in the company rested in the hands of Mr. Gregorio. The panel cited Mr. Gregorio’s involvement in a scheme to overcharge the District on federally funded road-paving jobs.

Prosecutors said Mr. Gregorio had participated in a scheme in which city public-works officials were given cash and gifts to overstate the amount of road-paving material that contractors delivered to city job sites.

Mr. Gregorio was sentenced in federal court in 2002 to one year of probation after he pleaded guilty to supplementing a public salary. C&F Construction separately pleaded guilty to paying a bribe to a public official.

C&F Construction and two other area road-construction companies were convicted in a federal probe of the city’s Department of Public Works during the mid- and late 1990s. In one case, prosecutors said Mr. Gregorio gave a city highway inspector a package containing $15,000 in cash.

The road-paving conspiracy, dubbed “Operation Hot Mix,” has resulted in charges against nine former public-works employees and three paving companies, which performed about 30 federally funded contracts in the District, according to the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Mr. Gregorio’s guilty plea prompted the city’s debarment panel in February to ban C&F from city contracts for six months until August.

However, nine weeks into the sentence, panel members changed their minds, according to documents obtained by The Washington Times.

In an April 16 ruling, the panel permanently lifted the company’s suspension, allowing C&F to contract with the District again.

Panel members said in the ruling they were satisfied that new company reforms would guard against future illegal activity.

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