Housing Head Won't Resign, Dismisses Forum's Report

May 03, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Calling criticism of Anne Arundel's public housing authority "uninformed," its chairman said he won't resign under pressure from black community leaders.

In a terse telephone interview, Charles St. Lawrence said he had read a copy of the Black Political Forum's 13-page report that charged County Executive Robert R. Neall has ignored minority concerns. The forum urged immediate changes in the housing authority.

St. Lawrence termed the section on the housing authority "uninformed." Asked to elaborate on his remark, he said: "I think the word isself-explanatory."

Members of the Black Political Forum, who released the report at a news conference Tuesday, urgedSt. Lawrence to resign because of long-standing problems with running the county's low-income housing projects. St. Lawrence said he doesn't intend to step down.

"I have no plans to change what I'm doing," he said.

A Severna Park resident and community leader, St. Lawrence was appointed to the seven-member housing board by former County Executive O. JamesLighthizer in 1988. His colleagues on the volunteer board elected himchairman a year ago.

During St. Lawrence's tenure, two executive directors have resigned and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has turned down several requests for modernization money,citing "marginally satisfactory" management, high vacancy rates and related problems.

The authority has made substantial strides in the past four months, including renovating boarded-up units, boosting the occupancy rates closer to HUD standards and bringing managers backon site in the two family projects.

But the Black Political Forumblamed the governing board for the agency's poor record and sharply criticized the lack of tenant representation, dubbing the board "Annpartheid."

Freshman board member James J. Riley said yesterday thathe plans to suggest recruiting candidates from the five senior and two family projects to replace Shirley Alexander, who stepped down in April. Neall also said he wants to appoint a tenant, possibly from a list of candidates he's alreadycompiled.

St. Lawrence, who has said he hoped a tenant would be appointed but couldn't find a suitable candidate, said he was unaware of the list and hadn't provided any names.

Board member Richard L. Ay said he didn't believe any tenants had applied for a spot on the authority since Stella Benesh, a resident of the Glen Square senior complex, stepped down early last year. But three tenants -- two from senior projects and one from Freetown --have called The Anne Arundel County Sun this week to say they expressed interest in the position last year.

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