Details announced in 'sex-for-repairs' lawsuit

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-08 19:46:21-05
Women who filed a federal lawsuit against the Baltimore housing authority will settle for an amount that is the largest reached in a fair housing lawsuit after a "sex-for-repairs" scheme was outlined in their sworn statements.

The amount to be given to the women -- between $6 million and $7.95 million -- will be determined depending on if the lawsuit is allowed class action status, and how many women ultimately come forward to join the claim.

That process could take another six moths, attorney's for the women said. So far, 19 women have come forward alleging that maintenance workers at three public housing properties demanded sexual favors in exchange for repairs.

"It's a historic effort on behalf of these plaintiff's for coming forward, it's a historic effort for communities united for bringing attention to this problem," said Carey Hansel, co-counsel for the plaintiff's.

The settlement was reached during mediation talks before a retired federal judge last month. The money will come from the federal government, particularly the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"I'm happy that the situation is over with," said Lynette Cooper, one of the plaintiff's. She thanked Paul Graziano, Baltimore City's housing commissioner as she spoke at a press conference held jointly by representatives from the Baltimore Housing Authority, the plaintiff's and their attorneys, and Maryland Communities United, a housing advocacy group.

A criminal probe at the city state's attorney's office is still active.

"Mistakes have been made here, and some of them have been very serious mistakes," Graziano said.

The women filed the federal lawsuit in Sept. alleging their constitutional and fundamental rights were violated. Graziano characterized the behavior of the men as "atrocious," while saying the authority has begun needed work on improving deplorable living conditions.

"This goes way beyond the individual situations. It is systemic changes that will ensure that every resident in public housing can live in peace and dignity," Graziano said.

Graziano said employees will now go through mandatory sexual harrassment training, that each of the 19 women will be moved to new housing, and that workers have taken a backlog of some 4,400 maintenance requests down to 1,500.

Perry Hopkins, a representative of Communites United was not sold.

"It's a bandaid on a bullet wound. He's making a great effort, but it's a far, far cry," Hopkins said.