Sun errs in calling for Graziano's ouster

The recent Sun editorial regarding Baltimore's housing commissioner ("Graziano must go," Sept. 25) demonstrates the editorial board's failure to understand the legal processes and the law involved concerning the payment of claims and judgments involving injuries purported and proven to be caused by human lead paint ingestion.

The editorial initially states that the commissioner "is brazenly defying the courts" by not paying these judgments. It is up to the judgment holders' attorneys to utilize judgment collection methods available to them against this government agency, which should not be too difficult.

The newspaper goes on to charge Mr. Graziano with failure to purchase insurance to pay lead paint judgments, but I have to wonder what insurance company would take on that risk and what the premium would be.

Further, the editorial suggests that instead of private attorneys defending these suits, Mr. Graziano should assign these cases to "in house" attorneys without giving the cost of present overloaded city legal staff applying their attentions (and our tax money) to the $800 million worth of claims.

Next, The Sun gives us a math problem "that doesn't add up" by accusing the commissioner of spending $4 million to save $100 million of potential judgments. Mr Graziano can come to work for me any time at that percentage of savings.

The next incredible statement is that the "legal system doesn't give a free pass to those who claim poverty or nobility of purpose." That is not so. Maryland is an English Common Law state and as such has the public (taxpayer) protection of sovereign immunity for governmental acts or omissions. For some legal reason, this doctrine was overcome in these cases, and the injured prevailed.

Another naive suggestion is that the housing authority work with lawmakers to pay these judgments and future claims. This assumes that the General Assembly would be willing to assume liability for an undetermined amount to help the city. Fat chance.

And finally, The Sun accuses Mr Graziano of "overstating" and "grossly exaggerating" and not being forthright concerning negotiations with the courts involved. There are legal means The Sun has available to find this information out. Come on, you guys know the drill. Mr. Graziano did exactly the right thing for all parties by not revealing negotiations that which may jeopardize the public (taxpayers') interest.

I was very surprised that The Sun would call for someone's head without enough hard evidence in these economic times. It should also be understood that the lead paint legislation was a major cause of the huge exodus of property owners and developers from the city in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Jim Regensburg, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of Maryland Citizens for Responsible Government.

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