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HABC employees linked to 'sex for repair' claims fired [UPDATED]

HABC employees linked to 'sex for repair' claims fired [UPDATED]
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano (Courtesy/Baltimore Housing)

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City and its chief Paul Graziano continue to face mounting challenges this week as new developments in the Gilmor Homes "sex-for-repairs" case point to possible neglect by highly placed officials in the agency. Graziano himself faces separate legal issues related to a sex-abuse case that began during his tenure as an official in New York.

Two employees accused of extorting sexual favors in return for routine maintenance work at the Gilmor Homes and other public housing facilities have been fired by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, according to union officials.

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Michael Robertson, a maintenance worker at the Gilmor Homes, and his supervisor, Charles Coleman, were both terminated as of Friday, said Lucky Crosby, safety officer for AFSCME local 647.

Coleman and Robertson are accused of long-running and widespread abuses in which they threatened housing residents and withheld vital repairs in order to coerce sexual favors. The allegations were first raised in a lawsuit against the city and Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano brought by 11 residents of Gilmor Homes and other public-housing facilities in the city.

Crosby said that Robertson has filed a grievance with the union and will fight his termination.

According to Crosby, Robertson was fired not as a result of an investigation directly into his own conduct, but as a result of being questioned in an investigation of Coleman's actions. Crosby said HABC cited a statement given by Robertson concerning Coleman's conduct that was contradicted by a witness account, and terminated him under a clause requiring employees to cooperate in personnel investigations.

Coleman, as a manager, is not represented by the union, and HABC officials said they could not comment on any personnel matters it considers confidential.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the 11 victims say they are investigating the role played by a top HABC official. HABC Deputy Commissioner Reggie Scriber, who reports directly to Graziano, is named in an affidavit submitted Tuesday by a victim who says Scriber told her in a phone call that "he could not guarantee my safety if I continued with my complaint."

At the time of the phone call, the plaintiff was an HABC employee as well as a Gilmor Homes resident, according to the affadavit. She worked as an administrative assistant to Deputy Executive Director Anthony Scott, who also reports to Graziano, and had initially brought her allegations to him.

Scriber has been with HABC for 32 years, eight of them in his current position of deputy commissioner for community affairs. City Paper reached out to Scriber for comment and was told he would not be available until Tuesday. An HABC spokesperson declined to comment beyond an emailed statement sent to the media.

Graziano is also defending himself against allegations that his policies while he was general manager of the New York City Housing Authority allowed molestation by an after-school program supervisor to go unchecked for a decade.

According to court documents, plaintiffs in the lawsuit allege that Graziano's policies allowed Nicholas Rodriquez to hold on to his position as the director of an after-school program for more than 10 years after complaints about his conduct toward children had been raised with NYCHA by other employees.

Complaints against Rodriguez surfaced beginning in 1998, two years before Graziano took the Baltimore commissioner position under then-Mayor Martin O'Malley.

NYCHA officials under Graziano dismissed the complaints, according to the documents, in part because official policy on the mandatory reporting of child abuse failed to take into account the possibility that the abuser could be an employee rather than a parent.

That allowed Rodriguez to keep his job and continue molesting children for another 13 years, until he was arrested in 2011 and convicted a year later for assaulting two young girls, one of whom is now the plaintiff suing Graziano.

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