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Mayor names Henson to head housing agency Long-time confidant of Schmoke replaces Hearn at troubled department


In articles March 4 and 5 about Daniel P. Henson III, Baltimore's new housing commissioner, The Evening Sun reported incorrectly that Struever Bros., Eccles & Rouse Inc. receives millions of dollars each year from the federal government in loans for housing projects.

In fact, the company has received $12.5 million in government loans since the early 1980s, most of which was awarded prior to the beginning of the Schmoke administration.

In addition, the Howard County edition of March 4 stated incorrectly that Struever Bros. was receiving more than half of the millions in Community Development Block Grant money being awarded to the city of Baltimore. In fact, the company has received only $305,000 over the past five years, of a total of $92 million awarded, according to the city Department of Housing and Community Development.

The Evening Sun regrets the errors.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke today named developer Daniel P. Henson III, a long-time confidant and political supporter, to head Baltimore's troubled Department of Housing and Community Development.

Mr. Henson takes over for Robert W. Hearn, whom Mr. Schmoke removed from his $89,600-a-year post Feb. 22, after fierce criticism of his leadership of both the housing department and Housing Authority of Baltimore City, which oversees the city's 18,300 public housing units.

"I'm excited about it," the mayor said of his appointment. "He knows housing locally, but he's also been a federal official and knows how to work the governmental bureaucracy on all levels."

Mr. Schmoke said Mr. Henson's salary as commissioner would be more than Mr. Hearn was paid, although the exact amount is still being negotiated.

Mr. Henson, 49, is president of the Henson Co., Inc., a development consulting firm often linked as minority business partner with Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse Inc., the politically well connected developer-contractor that receives millions of dollars in federal housing money each year.

Even before starting his own company in 1991, Mr. Henson was employed by Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse as a senior developer and vice president.

While Mr. Henson's name frequently has been dropped as a possible housing chief in recent weeks, his partnership with developers that build projects with federal housing money -- including developments in which he has part ownership -- has raised questions about possible conflicts of interest.

The federal money is dispensed locally by the city Department of Housing and Community Development.

Some officials estimated yesterday that more than half of the millions of dollars in U.S. Community Development Block Grant money that Baltimore is spending in projects is going to Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse developments.

Mr. Schmoke said lawyers for Mr. Henson have been working with city officials on ways for the housing commissioner-designee to divest himself of his interest -- including stock holdings -- and to distance himself from Struever Bros., Eccles and Rouse.

The mayor said "a formal mechanism" will be established for Mr. Henson to either place that interest in a trust or sell it off.

Mr. Henson was called by the mayor a key player in his restructuring of city government, which he hopes to have in place by July 1, when a new fiscal year begins.

The appointment must be approved by the City Council.

Mr. Henson's company most recently was the minority element of a joint venture with the Rouse Company and Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. in a thus far-unsuccessful bid to build the U.S. Health Care Financing Administration headquarters in the city, north of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The U.S. General Services Administration awarded a $122.6 million contract last August to another joint venture to build the headquarters in Baltimore County.

But in January, Mr. Schmoke asked President Clinton to launch an independent investigation into the award, charging that Republican politics influenced the decision.

A city native and longtime West Baltimore resident, Mr. Henson is a well known political fixture who has been billed as a national expert on minority business. For a time, he was host of a local television program geared to the city's black community.

Mr. Henson is the former regional director of the U.S. Small Business Administration and served during President Carter's tenure as director of the U.S. Minority Business Development Agency, an arm of the Commerce Department.

In 1981, he was named director of the Greater Baltimore Committee's minority business development committee. Two years later, he became chairman of the Development Credit Fund Inc., a GBC initiative that was a venture of city and state governments, as well as Maryland's six largest banks, set up to provide capital to minority-owned businesses.

He later was vice president of G&M; Oil Co., a now-defunct company best known as owner of an oil truck that exploded into flames and set off a blaze that turned 10 Northwest Baltimore rowhouses and five parked cars to rubble in 1984.

He also has served as a director of the minority-owned Harbor Bank of Maryland.

Mr. Schmoke asked Mr. Henson last month to look into public housing problems at the height of the criticism of Mr. Hearn's lax management of the Housing Authority and HCD's failure to spend $42 million in Community Development Block Grant money on city projects.

Mr. Schmoke said he tapped Mr. Henson after U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, and state Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, D-Baltimore, called for a commission to examine public housing issues and the reasons for the unspent money.

Two weeks later, Mr. Schmoke reassigned Mr. Hearn to a new Cabinet position as assistant to the mayor for policy development, a job aimed at improving the city's relationship with the federal government.

Mr. Hearn served as commissioner of housing and community development and executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City -- a joint post he held for five years.

Deputy Housing Commissioner Harold R. Perry has been acting housing commissioner since Mr. Hearn was removed.

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