A federal corruption investigation into plumbing work at the former home of former Hennepin County Board Chairman Mark Andrew has concluded without criminal charges, Andrew's attorney said Friday.

"We've been told that no evidence will be presented to the grand jury. What it means to me is that this case is finally over in regards to Mark," lawyer Mike Colich said.

Colich said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Larsen informed him Wednesday that the investigation had ended.

On Friday, U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said, "We've never even confirmed that there's even been any scrutiny of Mark Andrew. I'm not prepared to break that now. I'm not going to comment on Mike Colich's comments, either."

Heffelfinger's response followed his office's policy of refusing to confirm or deny any investigations.

Andrew said he was confident all along that he would prevail on the legal issues. "The fear was always: Will a careerlong dedication to public service be tarnished?

"Only time will tell, but I certainly hope and pray it won't," Andrew said.

Free plumbing

Questions about plumbing work at Andrew's former home in south Minneapolis arose in late November.

Thomas Martin, former business manager for Minneapolis Plumbers Local 15, pleaded guilty to taking union funds to pay for work at property owned by former Minneapolis City Council Member Joe Biernat and said he had also provided free work for another, unnamed elected official.

Martin said that he had used $3,175 in union funds to pay for plumbing at the home of an elected official later identified as Andrew.

Andrew, 52, is a former DFL Party state chairman and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate. He served for 16 years on the Hennepin County Board, leaving in the middle of his term early in 1999 to join a public-relations firm.

Andrew declined to provide details of the investigation but said, "It was extremely thorough, I can attest to that. If there was anything to find, it would have been."

Regarding whether the plumbing was the focus of federal investigators, Andrew said, "I know very little about what they were thinking or doing."

Colich said Andrew and his wife were each interviewed at length by federal investigators.

Determining whether free work was done at the Andrew home would have involved tearing down walls and looking at the plumbing, Colich said.

"I honestly don't know," Colich said about whether Andrew took free plumbing. "He paid for the plumbing he thought he had done. He was told by the U.S. attorney he'd had additional plumbing done. He no longer lives in that home. We never had the opportunity to go look."

Colich, a prominent defense lawyer familiar with the practices of federal investigators, said he's confident the case is closed - although prosecutors haven't put their intentions in writing.

End of probe?

Last month, Biernat was sentenced to 21 months in prison after he was found guilty of five federal charges in connection with the plumbers probe. Martin was sentenced to two years.

Another former Minneapolis City Council member, Brian Herron, recently completed a year in prison on an unrelated conviction for extortion.

On Friday, Heffelfinger wouldn't say whether his office had completed its investigation of the plumber's case or other corruption allegations at City Hall.

"The issue of public integrity is one we take seriously and we take seriously throughout the state," Heffelfinger said. "This isn't just Minneapolis that seems to find themselves in trouble."

The writers are at raolson@startribune.com and
pmcenroe@startribune.com.