Democratic 2nd District City Council candidate Beatrice "Bea" Gaddy ran her campaign headquarters out of a vacant rowhouse owned by a landlord criticized by a neighborhood organization for owning scores of rundown properties.
In an agreement with Stanley Rochkind, Gaddy used the house in the 1800 block of North Washington St. for free in exchange for fixing it up. But after inquiries by The Sun, Gaddy, 66, returned the house to Rochkind this week.
"I've moved almost everything out because I know how people could perceive it," Gaddy said. "I had not known of him as a slumlord."
She said she had considered renting or buying the house for a district office if she won the election.
Gaddy said yesterday she filed an amendment this week to her campaign reports to list the house as a contribution. She failed to do so earlier. According to the latest reports handed in on Sept. 3, Gaddy filed a limited affidavit, which means she spent or received less than $1,000. Property records show the house to be valued at $10,200.
Gaddy was contacted two weeks ago by representatives of the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) about her relationship with Rochkind, whom they have accused of being a slumlord.
John Milton Wesley, a spokesman for the city Housing Authority, said Rochkind is in the top 10 of housing code violators. According to statistics taken July 7, Wesley said, Rochkind owns more than 1,000 properties in the city and has been issued 233 total unabated notices -- 163 of which are for vacant violations.
Rochkind disputes those claims and said ACORN has ruined a partnership in which a vacant house in the city was repaired and occupied.
"They kept on pressuring her and said she should move out," Rochkind said. "ACORN wants to become the housing authority of Baltimore with its own laws."
Rochkind said he did not know how many properties he owned in the city, nor how many violations he had against him, but added that one property can be cited multiple times.
"Out of all the properties we own, we have no house -- to my knowledge -- that has an outstanding violation," Rochkind said.
Willie Ray, chairperson of the local ACORN group, said a council member being associated with Rochkind sends the wrong signals to residents. The 500-member advocacy group pressured Democratic mayoral nominee Martin O'Malley to return a $1,000 donation from Rochkind's wife, Rhonda, last month, and demonstrated outside the landlord's Pikesville home in July.
Gaddy, a longtime advocate for the homeless, won the primary for a seat in the 2nd District. Gaddy joins incumbents Paula Johnson Branch and Bernard C. "Jack" Young on the Democratic ticket for November's election.
Gaddy said she needed a place to run her campaign, so she approached Rochkind last month about renting a property. Rochkind, she said, offered her the Washington Street house.
"Everything was as clean and honest as it could be," Rochkind said. "We were even talking about plans to fix up other vacant houses."
When she moved into the rowhouse, Gaddy said, the backyard was packed with garbage, and the ceiling leaked. Volunteers helped her haul away the trash, fix the ceiling and floors and make other improvements with what little campaign money she had.
Until she raises more money, Gaddy said, she will wait to find another office. She said she was unaware of Rochkind's reputation when she took the house.
"I had known him as a name, but I have never done business with him in my life," Gaddy said. "I know now I can't stay there."