Details will be released Friday about the settlement in a class-action lawsuit over an alleged sex-for-repairs scheme at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.
Cary J. Hansel, an attorney representing about 20 female plaintiffs, said he is expected to join housing authority officials at a news conference to disclose the amount of the settlement and provide information on how other potential victims can apply to join the lawsuit.
The parties reached a settlement agreement after mediation sessions held before a U.S. District Court judge last month.
The suit, filed in September, says several maintenance men at public-housing complexes demanded sex acts from at least 19 women as a condition of making repairs to their homes. The case was amended in mid-November to add more plaintiffs and to seek class-action status.
The women, who lived at Gilmor Homes, Westport and Govans Manor, said they lived for extended periods with no heat, as well as vermin and life-threatening conditions, such as mold and risk of electrocution. They argued that their constitutional and fundamental rights were violated over years of sexual harassment and abuse.
The women sought more than $10 million each. The range of potential payments under the settlement, which is pending approval by the court and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is expected to be provided Friday.
The case has led some to call for the resignation or firing of Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano, who also faces criticism over a recent audit at the agency, the elimination of the housing authority's inspector general and accusations that top housing officials retaliated against whistle-blowers. The Baltimore state's attorney's office launched an investigation into the women's allegations after the suit was filed to determine whether criminal charges should be brought.
Class-action lawsuits typically include notice to all individuals potentially affected and instructions on how to join the litigation. Applying to join routinely involves participating in interviews or filling out paperwork.
One woman in the suit said that after she rejected a maintenance supervisor's sexual advances on multiple occasions, the man stopped responding to her requests for repairs at her unit in Gilmor Homes.
On one occasion, the woman said, electrical wires in her daughter's room caught fire and burned the outlet strip along the wall. Additionally, she claimed that she had mold, roaches, bedbugs and no refrigerator.
"As a result of the unabated and dangerous living conditions, my child's health has suffered," the woman wrote in an affidavit. "She has exhibited an increase in headaches and vomiting, along with a noticeable increase in difficulties in her schooling.
"I am coming forward now, with counsel, to put a stop to this behavior and to help other women at Gilmor."