Sun Investigates

Housing authority employees disciplined over private contracting

Baltimore's housing authority has disciplined a group of employees after an internal investigator found that top agency officials hired lower-level staff to do contracting work at their homes.

The agency's inspector general concluded that executive and senior management staff showed "a lack of good judgment" in hiring James Bassetti and Cecil Williams, who work for the housing authority's construction arm, according to a report issued by the office May 13.


In all, five housing authority employees and the relative of a sixth paid for work to be done at their homes. They included Chief Financial Officer Rainbow Lin and Charles Aquavella, an associate deputy director whose duties include overseeing engineering and capital improvements. Lin and Aquavella did not respond to requests for comment.

Though it found "no malicious intent," the report also said that Bassetti and Williams "impeded" the investigation by telling colleagues and supervisor the kinds of questions investigators were asking. Bassetti and Williams declined to comment.


Agency spokeswoman Cheron Porter declined to specify the consequences for the employees involved or say how many were disciplined. "I can say appropriate actions have taken place," she said.

"The IG Office found no malicious intent on the part of any of the employees; however, we do find that the executive and senior management staff exercised a lack of good judgment," the inspector general's report said.

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"Individuals in positions of authority, especially at the executive or senior levels of the agency, are responsible for setting the tone in which the agency is operated and viewed. That tone should be one of integrity, honesty and responsibility."

These arrangements could be perceived as a conflict, the inspector general added.

"We do not disagree that there was some poor judgment here," Porter said. "However, the IG's report found there was no ethical violation. No allegations were founded of time, material or equipment misuse — this was not done on company time. No one got a break."

Porter said the work included painting, caulking, door replacement, mold removal and installation of an attic fan.

The IG's office urged the housing authority to implement a policy to govern the hiring of employees by other employees for "personal matters." It suggested a ban on "any sort of private financial relationship with a superior or subordinate."

Porter said the agency is considering the recommendations. Employees are currently subject to the city's ethics law, which doesn't specifically bar top officials from hiring staff for private work.


Scott Calvert