The 300 recently furloughed and unpaid employees of Birdsall Services Group, Inc., Eatontown, N.J., breathed a bit easier on April 15 as the engineering firm agreed to pay $3.6 million to settle criminal prosecution charges with the state. The action unfreezes assets of Birdsall, which still remains under indictment on corruption charges and is seeking bankruptcy protection, and allows the firm to operate and call employees back to work with pay. Birdsall, meanwhile, is in talks with a potential buyer, says a company spokesman.

The settlement does not resolve the indictment against the firm and seven of its former executives, says a spokesman at the office of New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa. Birdsall is still subject to potential criminal fines, penalties and restitution orders, he adds.

"Our employees have been notified to report back to work on Tuesday [April 16]," Ralph Orlando, Birdsall president and CEO, said in a statement. "The agreement also allows us to properly plan our next course of action with greater certainty. We believe that this is a fair settlement with regard to the current legal matter, and we look forward to proceeding with a business plan that continues to be in our best interests."

Under the settlement, Birdsall agreed to pay the state $2.6 million to settle the civil forfeiture action and to establish a $1-million fund dedicated to paying fines, penalties and restitution that arise from the ongoing criminal action.

Lawyers for Birdsall and for the state had been "talking" during the weekend of April 13 to try to reach a resolution, the Birdsall spokesman says.

A state grand jury indicted Birdsall and seven of its former executives and shareholders on March 26 in connection with making political contributions in exchange for work (ENR, 4/8/2013, p. 14). The firm has been in and out of court several times since then as the state contested the bankruptcy filing and succeeded in getting Birdsall's assets frozen. The firm furloughed staff on April 10 after U.S. District Court Judge Michael Shipp issued a temporary restraining order blocking it from using cash collateral for salaries and other expenses.