A grand jury has indicted a Maryland construction company executive, charging him with one count of attempting to bribe a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority official.
The indictment—handed up on Sept. 4 in Prince George's County, Md., Circuit Court against Hardutt Singh, vice president with Potomac Construction Inc.—prompted the transit agency to suspend the company from doing business with it as a contractor or subcontractor.
The indictment alleges that on Dec. 16, 2016, Singh attempted to bribe Erick Wilkes, who then was manager of WMATA's disadvantaged-business enterprise office.
A WMATA spokesperson says Wilkes left the transit authority in 2017. A source says Wilkes' departure was not related to the events in the case.
The indictment doesn't provide the amount of the alleged bribe or say whether a specific WMATA contract was involved.
John Erzen, spokesman for the office of the State's Attorney for Prince George's County, declined to provide more details about the indictment, citing the pending trial. Erzen said further specifics will be part of the prosecutors' case.
An arraignment for Singh is scheduled for Sept. 21.
A person answering the phone at Hyattsville, Md.-based Potomac Construction told ENR that Singh wasn't available.
Charles Sickels, a Fairfax, Va.-based attorney who represents Potomac Construction—though not Singh—told ENR, "I fully expect Harry Singh to be vindicated from any charges."
Sickels adds, "I've known the guy for 20-some years. I'm confident that he is ethical, hard-working, generous and honest." He says, "Any such charge is totally out of character for him."
WMATA has notified Potomac that it was being suspended "from doing business with WMATA as a contractor, subcontractor or in any other capacity." The suspension is in place pending the resolution of the legal proceedings, unless the transit agency's chief procurement officer ends it before that, according to the suspension notice.
During the suspension, Potomac is barred from submitting bids or proposals or receiving awards from new WMATA contracts, subcontracts, task orders or delivery orders.
The company is permitted to submit information to WMATA responding to or rebutting the suspension.
Sickels says he has represented Potomac Construction in multiple appeals before the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals regarding WMATA contracts over the years. Those appeals deal with such issues as change orders and bid process, he adds.
WMATA says that as of Sept. 7, Potomac had 15 task orders, totaling $17.5 million, under a general construction contract.
Two other Potomac contracts totaling $79.9 million are active but "substantially complete" as of Sept. 7, according to WMATA.
Geoffrey Cherrington, WMATA's inspector general, whose office is one of several federal and non-federal agencies involved in the investigation, declined to comment.
WMATA owns and operates what it says is the second-largest heavy-rail transit system in the U.S., comprising 118 miles and 91 stations in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. The authority also operates what it says is the sixth-largest bus transit network.