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Legislators Urge Rawlings-Blake to Get the Lead Out

Three prominent state representatives from Baltimore have written Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to express concern over her and Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) Director Paul Graziano's refusal to pay several million dollars in court judgments to victims of lead poisoning. "Many of these victims will endure life-long disabilities due to the negligence of HABC, an entity that is not above the law and is legally obliged to comply with court Orders," 41st District delegates Lisa Gladden, Nathaniel T. Oaks, and Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg wrote in a letter to Rawlings-Blake, which was e-mailed to

City Paper

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. Rawlings-Blake spokesperson Ryan O'Doherty did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment. The Housing Authority has lost nine suits and faced judgments of nearly $12 million. Another 175 suits wait on deck, with liabilities, according to the

Sun

's Scott Calvert, exceeding $800 million.

prompted Mayor Rawlings-Blake to

,  which is that Baltimore Housing doesn't have the money to pay the judgments. "It's only been within the last couple weeks that the Housing Authority has made clear that they will never pay, voluntarily, any of the judgments," says David Albright, a lawyer representing people who say they have been injured by lead paint exposure. Baltimore City was the first in the nation to prohibit the use of lead-based paint mixes inside dwellings. That was in 1951. But in the six decades since then, the city did little to enforce lead abatement codes in the city's housing stock—or clean up the lead in its own buildings. The nation's fifth-largest housing authority—with a budget totaling $300 million annually—had other priorities. The authority has spent some $3.8 million during the past four years on legal maneuvering to escape the judgments, by Calvert's count. The legislators offer to help the city find the money to pay, while scolding Rawlings-Blake and Graziano. "Every dollar spent on frivolous and delaying legal tactics is also one less dollar available for the capital and operating budget needs of HABC," the three legislators write. "Clearly, HABC needs to get its priorities straight." Says Albright: "The key thing is the Housing Authority can't forget about the children who have been brain damaged because of lead paint."

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