Con­trac­tor banned from city busi­ness

Fal­si­fied in­voices cost tax­payer $165,000 — all since re­funded

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Yvonne Wenger ywenger@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/yvon­newenger

Bal­ti­more of­fi­cials have barred an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy con­trac­tor from do­ing busi­ness with the city for 10 years af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that the com­pany fal­si­fied in­voices dozens of times and over­billed tax­pay­ers $165,000.

The Board of Es­ti­mates voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day to block In­vest­ment Man­age­ment En­ter­prise Inc. and its chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Twyla Gar­rett, from com­pet­ing for city con­tracts un­til 2026.

The vote fol­lowed tes­ti­mony Wed­nes­day from Steven Pot­ter, a city lawyer, who said Gar­rett’s com­pany at­tempted to de­ceive of­fi­cials into pay­ing for work that was never per­formed.

The com­pany was sub­con­tracted to pro­vide sys­tem en­gi­neers and other pro­fes­sion­als to do work for the Mayor’s Of­fice of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy.

“The scheme to over­bill the city 43 times and steal over $165,000 of tax­payer money is prob­a­bly the worst thing a gov­ern­ment con­trac­tor can do,” Pot­ter said.

“It’s an at­tack on the in­tegrity of the city’s pro­cure­ment process.”

The board de­cided unan­i­mously to de­bar Gar­rett, In­vest­ment Man­age­ment En­ter­prise and any com­pany for which she is a prin­ci­pal for a decade.

Gar­rett did not par­tic­i­pate in the public hear­ing.

Ef­forts to reach her or an at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing her were un­suc­cess­ful.

David Ralph, in­terim city solic­i­tor, said Gar­rett con­tested the orig­i­nal de­bar­ment in May but with­drew her re­quest for a hear­ing shortly be­fore Wed­nes­day’s pro­ceed­ing.

In­vest­ment Man­age­ment En­ter­prise pleaded guilty in Fe­bru­ary to one count of theft in ex­change for a felony charge against Gar­rett be­ing dropped. The com­pany was sen­tenced to three months of pro­ba­tion.

The city has re­ceived a check for more than $165,000 — the full amount of resti­tu­tion owed.

Gar­rett and her com­pany had been in­dicted on theft charges in 2015 for al­legedly sub­mit­ting false in­voices from Jan. 1, 2013, to Jan. 15, 2015, charg­ing the city for more than1,000 hours of work that was not done.

The charges stemmed from an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the city’s in­spec­tor gen­eral into the mayor’s tech­nol­ogy of­fice that be­gan in March 2014. The in­spec­tor gen­eral con­cluded that the over­billing was not caught by the city be­cause of in­ad­e­quate con­tract man­age­ment and over­sight.

Pot­ter noted that Gar­rett was the com­pany’s prin­ci­pal dur­ing the time it en­gaged in the over­billing.

No Bal­ti­more of­fi­cials were charged as a re­sult of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, but the head of the in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy of­fice, Christo­pher Ton­jes, re­signed amid the probe af­ter be­ing placed on ad­min­is­tra­tive leave.

He has con­sis­tently de­nied any wrong­do­ing and was never found to be in­volved in any mis­con­duct.

Pot­ter said Gar­rett al­tered a 2012 email from Ton­jes to her in an at­tempt to cast blame on him as in­ves­ti­ga­tors be­gan prob­ing.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors re­cov­ered the orig­i­nal email on Ton­jes’ hard drive. Pot­ter brought copies of the orig­i­nal and the al­tered ver­sion to the hear­ing and dis­played the doc­u­ments on large poster boards.

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