- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Prince George’s County grand jury indicted a former county official and an Upper Marlboro accountant yesterday on charges of conspiracy, bribery and felony theft in a $250,000 shakedown of a county contractor.

Robert L. Thomas, former deputy director of Prince George’s County Department of Central Services, and accountant Paul L. Wright are accused of soliciting the $250,000 bribe to award a contract to install security systems at two county government buildings.

However, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson criticized the six-month grand jury probe and the “ineptitude” of prosecutors led by Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, whose office’s sole responsibility is to investigate government corruption in the state.

The county executive said Mr. Rohrbaugh improperly extended the investigation to areas “that had nothing to do with these little bribes.”

“The prosecutor just went on a fishing expedition beyond any facts,” he said. “He went and he dragged my entire staff before the grand jury, allowed the insinuation that there was corruption in my government.”

Mr. Johnson, a former state’s attorney for the county, said he was not challenging the grand jury’s findings. He insisted, however, that his administration was free of corruption.

When told of Mr. Johnson’s remarks, Mr. Rohrbaugh declined to respond.

He did say the investigation is continuing.

The three-count indictment also named as a co-conspirator Robert L. Isom, a former deputy director of the county’s Environmental Resources Department and a one-time candidate for County Council. He was not charged.

Isom, 69, pleaded guilty in September to conspiring to soliciting the bribe last year from Interior Systems Inc., a D.C. firm that was designated as a minority subcontractor for ADT/Tyco to provide the security systems.

According to court documents, Isom worked in concert with Mr. Thomas and Mr. Wright to extract the bribe, which was to be repaid to the company through contract change orders.

Isom is scheduled for sentencing Jan. 26. His plea agreement stipulated that he will be sentenced to two years in prison, with one year suspended, and a $5,000 fine.

The trial of Mr. Thomas, 63, and Mr. Wright, 52, is expected to begin early next year.

They face up to 12 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each count of bribery and conspiracy. The charge of felony theft could bring them 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The bribery scandal rocked the county government in May when investigators seized files and computers from the offices of Isom and Mr. Thomas.

Mr. Johnson fired Isom, who earned $93,303 a year. Mr. Thomas quit his $103,530-a-year job several weeks before the raid.

The probe added to the county’s corruption pains, coming on the heels of accusations that public schools Chief Executive Officer Andre J. Hornsby had steered a million-dollar contract to a company that employed his live-in girlfriend.

Mr. Hornsby resigned from the $250,000-a-year job in May amid an FBI investigation into the deal and before an outside audit that largely substantiated accusations of misconduct.

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