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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter8:03 amMar 24, 20200

Fleet repair contractor to be suspended for alleged fraud

Baltimore firm allegedly submitted hundreds of invoices for work it did not perform and for equipment that was overpriced and sometimes “unusable.” UPDATED.

Above: Holabird Fleet Service highlights its work for Baltimore City on its webpage. (holabirdfleetservice.com)

A southeast Baltimore company that has long serviced the city’s fleet of cars and trucks is set to be “debarred” Wednesday after being found to have committed various acts of fraud.

Holabird Fleet Service, Trans-Tech Transmission Center and its principals, president Lawrence F. Ward and general manager Daniel E. Foy, are to be stripped of eight current contracts and prohibited from future city work for at least five years.

The Board of Estimates is set to act on these recommendations at its meeting tomorrow, according to the BOE agenda reviewed by The Brew. The panel’s approval will institute proceedings for an official suspension.

Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming declined yesterday to confirm or deny an investigation into the Holabird contracts, which has not yet resulted in a published report.

However, according to the city law department, Holabird Fleet Service has been cheating on a service contract that was awarded in 2014 by the Rawlings-Blake administration and extended across two subsequent administrations until it was terminated on February 3, 2020.

That contract, B50003291, Hydraulic and Welding Repair Service, was originally awarded for $2.5 million.

UPDATE 1 (3/24/20): Larry Ward, the owner, vehemently denied the city’s charges and said he was unaware of the debarment proceedings until late yesterday. “I had to send emails to Jack Young to tell him that no one in legal or purchasing would respond to me. I’m totally in the dark about what the hell is going on.”

UPDATE 2 (3/25/20): BOE defers taking action against Holabird Fleet for one week, giving no explanation at its “virtual” meeting closed to the public.

700 Invoices

According  to the law department, the company invoiced the city 700 times – picking up more than $10 million in taxpayer money – that included various false and fraudulent billings.

They included payments for services that the vendor did not perform, inflating the cost of services that were performed, and inflating the cost of parts and equipment.

Holabird Fleet has been cheating on a $10 million contract first awarded in 2014, according to the law department.

In addition, the vendor “submitted invoices for goods outside the scope of the contract, at a falsely inflated cost, that are unusable by the city,” according to the law department.

Sources tell The Brew that they involved snow plows sold by Holabird that were incompatible with city vehicles.

Forced Retirement

The contract was handled by Fleet Management, a division of General Services that’s long been under the purview of Robert W. Gibson, a 42-year veteran of city employment.

Gibson was responsible for maintaining 5,600 pieces of city-owned equipment and was based at the George L. Winfield Fleet Maintenance Facility at 3800 East Biddle Street. He was forced into retirement in late January, sources tell The Brew.

Between 2012 and 2018, Fleet Management was also supervised by his deputy chief, Chichi Nyagah-Nash. Following appointments in the housing department and at human resources, Nyagah-Nash was named director of General Services last August.

Gibson has not responded to emails and calls to his home for comment. Nyagah-Nash has so far not answered a list of questions about the contract.

In addition to Holabird Fleet and its parent, Holabird Enterprises of Maryland, the city suspended contracts with affiliates Holabird Tire & Auto Service and Port City Equipment Co.

UPDATE 3 (3/24/20): Holabird Tire owner Scott Connor told The Brew he purchased the company in 2013 from Ward, and that he and his firm have “no affiliation with Holabird Fleet Management whatsoever.” He said he has informed the city law department and “sent them all the ownership papers” so they can correct the debarment order.

Based in the St. Helena section of southeast Baltimore, Holabird Fleet has been a family-owned enterprise for nearly 30 years, according to its website.

Holabird Fleet emphasizes its low prices and free towing services on its website. (holabirdfleetservice.com)

Holabird Fleet’s website emphasizes its low prices and free towing services. (holabirdfleetservice.com)


• To reach this reporter: reuttermark@yahoo.com

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