8-26-11: Baltimore Elections 2011 — Lead Poisoning Settlements

August 26, 2011 at 8:05 am 3 comments

Each Wednesday and Friday here on Maryland Morning, we’re examining an issue relevant to the Baltimore City elections. Today: lead paint.

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City has refused to pay about $12 million in court judgments to Baltimoreans who claim they got lead poisoning from the city’s public housing. HABC executive director Paul Graziano testified in front of the Baltimore City Council that “HABC neither has the means nor the independent authority to pay the judgments.”

Today, Nathan Sterner talks to Baltimore Sun reporter Scott Calvert, who has filed several detailed stories over the last few months about the HABC lead poisoning judgments.

Maryland Morning asked each of the candidates running for mayor, including the incumbent, this question: What concrete steps would you take as mayor to encourage the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to pay the nearly $12 million it owes in lead-poisoning judgments? Democratic candidates Otis Rolley and Jody Landers responded; you can see their answers below.

Hear the rest of Nathan’s interview with Scott Calvert, in which Scott discusses other lead paint issues in the local news and tells Nathan how he got this story in the first place:Responses from candidates are below.

Otis Rolley:
As Mayor, I would take a single, concrete step: I would make the Housing Authority pay the judgments.  We would work with their attorneys to negotiate a payment plan or settlement agreement to meet our obligations without hurting our ability to provide quality public housing. It is outrageous that the current Mayor has refused to pay these judgments at the same time she is able to find funding for things like a downtown car race.  We waste money on a deputy mayors with undefined roles, but the Mayor says there is no bloat in a city government with a $2.8 billion budget — and still we can’t afford to meet our obligations according to her.  We can, should and must pay them — and as Mayor I will.

Jody Landers:
The City is in a difficult position in cases of this type, because it has an obligation to defend itself against lawsuits in order to protect taxpayers interests against unjustified claims, and it likewise has a moral and legal obligation to do the right thing and compensate  the persons harmed by lead-poisoning.

I would work with the Housing Authority to devise a way to pay the damages owed to the families.  First, I would open up direct settlement talks with the families to see if a lesser figure could be agreed upon, and then I would have the Finance Dept. come up with the best way to pay the agreed upon sum.

I would also investigate why the City did not maintain insurance coverage to protect itself in cases of this type.   I am also mindful that whatever the City does in the existing case, it must be prepared to do in future lead-poisoning cases. Maryland Morning also reached out to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City early yesterday afternoon for comment. Spokesperson Cheron Porter responded with the following statement:

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) is deeply sympathetic to anyone who has suffered from lead paint poisoning. The recently publicized cases are currently in litigation and as a policy the agency does not discuss  lawsuits while legal proceedings are underway.  It should be noted that while these cases were filed in the past few years; they involve incidents that occurred prior to the implementation of Maryland’s lead law in 1996. HABC has been fully compliant since its inception.

HABC has the great responsibility of providing homes for over 25,000 people throughout Baltimore City, while facing severe federal funding constraints. HABC faces over $800 million in claims and is not in a financial position at this time to pay these claims and still provide decent, safe and affordable housing for our current families, seniors and persons with disabilities.

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Entry filed under: Community, Elections 2011, On Air, Policy, Politics, Safety Net. Tags: , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Susan Detwiler  |  August 26, 2011 at 9:21 am

    What I have never understood about this issue is why the paint companies are not liable for the lead in the products they produced, instead of entities like the Housing Authority. Aren’t the asbestos producers liable for the harm they did? What’s the difference?

    Reply
  • 2. Educated Citizen  |  August 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    Mr. Rolley’s reply is simply ignorant. Someone should inquire of him WHERE precisely the funds would come from to fund these settlement agreements he speaks of. That is the issue facing the Housing Authority currently. Our current mayor hasn’t refused to pay any judgments, there is simply no source of money to pay them. It is simply an indication of ignorance of the issue to suggest that the same funds that are allowing for the race would be capable of satisfying the lead paint litigation. They simply are not.

    Do your homework Mr. Rolley.

    Reply
  • 3. lead paint abatement contractors  |  September 8, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Hi there,

    Thanks for sharing the lead positioning statements here, It has proved quite useful for me.

    Thanks,
    Adam

    Reply

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