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With the sex-for-repairs allegations growing against the Housing Authority of Baltimore City, the City Council will hold an investigative hearing to demand answers from housing officials.

A total of 20 women have now sued the Housing Authority over the scheme. The suit alleges that maintenance workers in three public housing developments demanded sexual favors as a condition for making repairs to their homes. Some tenants have been denied needed repair work for months as a result, the suit contends.

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The council has requested that city housing chief Paul T. Graziano and other top aides appear at the 5 p.m. hearing Monday on the fourth floor of City Hall. Council members want information on the Housing Authority's response to the allegations.

The lawsuit, filed in September, alleges sexual harassment or assault at Gilmor Homes, Westport and Govans Manor. The housing authority has said it will begin settlement talks with women named in the suit, who are seeking more than $10 million each.

The women allege assault and violations of their constitutional and fundamental rights, including the right to physical security.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the 20 women are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit against the Housing Authority in U.S. District Court. The move would allow more residents to join the lawsuit but shield their names and embarrassing encounters from the public, the lawyers said.

If a judge approves the status and the allegations are proved, damages against the housing authority could increase. Class-action status would allow other victims to benefit from any relief granted by the court without having their names listed in public documents.

Investigators from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have been looking into the allegations, and the Baltimore state's attorney's office has said it is conducting its own criminal investigation.

A second hearing could also take place on housing matters.

City Council members expressed outrage last week and called for hearings after a Baltimore Sun investigation revealed a backlog of more than 4,000 requests for public housing repairs that have long gone unanswered.

Housing Authority documents obtained last month by The Sun through a public information request show a backlog of more than 4,000 work orders at least 30 days old. Residents have sometimes waited more than a year for repairs essential to health and sanitation.

The Sun's investigation revealed that of the outstanding work orders, more than 1,000 involved plumbing problems such as leaky toilets, falling-down sinks and clogged bathtubs. Families in more than 200 homes had been waiting a month or more for exterminators.

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