City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway has filed a lawsuit against Examiner newspapers and one of its writers, Adam Meister, over an online column he wrote claiming that she lives in Baltimore County instead of the city she represents.
The suit, filed Monday in Baltimore City Circuit Court, accuses Meister, the Denver-based newspaper chain and the chain’s owner, Philip Anschutz, of libel, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. It seeks $21 million in damages.
“She’s a public official and there’s a lot at stake for her,” said Conaway’s lawyer, Thomas J. Maronick Jr.
Meister, who writes for The Examiner’s online Baltimore site, said he had not received a copy of the suit or even heard about it before a reporter called early Tuesday evening. He stood by his March column, which claimed that Conaway lives in the 9800 block of Southall Road in Randallstown instead of the address in the 3200 block of Liberty Heights Avenue which she and other elected officials in her family — her father, Circuit Court Clerk Frank Conaway, step-mother Register of Wills Mary Conaway, and her brother, Del. Frank Conaway Jr. — all list as their residence.
In his story, Meister linked to a copy of a deed indicating that Belinda Conaway and her husband, Milton D. Washington, have owned the Randallstown house since 2006. That was paired with an affidavit in which Conaway claims the house as her principal residence.
“The one thing the world cannot deny, that is a fact, that you can look on the Baltimore County tax records, that she is getting the homestead property tax credit there,” Meister said in response to questions about the suit.
Baltimore County property tax records, available online, show that Conaway and her husband received a county homestead tax credit for the property last year that amounted to $708.71.
Belinda Conaway referred questions to Maronick, who said that he does not know the status of the tax credit, but that his client does live in the city. He said the councilwoman and her husband bought the Randallstown house for her mother, Bernita Kelly, who has been ill for a long time. He dismissed the significance of the affidavit indicating that the Randallstown home was her principal residence.
“This is not a situation of trying to play games with the system,” he said. “It’s pretty standard when you go to a closing.”