Officials Deny Warfield Housing Case Near Settlement

May 12, 1991|By Gary Gately | Gary Gately,Staff writer

A lawyer representing Raymond H. Warfield, who steps down as an Aberdeen commissioner tomorrow night after 14 years in office, predicts criminal housing code violation charges against his client will be dropped.

But a county inspector who had the charges filed against Warfield says he knows of no settlement and would oppose one.

A criminal complaint alleges that Warfield, 51, ignored warnings that he would face charges unless he corrected violations, including a lack of heat and proper plumbing hook-ups, at a Dublin Road mobile home.

Warfield, the sole owner of Edgewood Homes, which sells mobile and modular homes, faces nine counts of criminal rental housing code violations.

The charges carry a combined maximum penalty of 32 months in jail and $5,500 in fines.

Harold D. Norton, Warfield's attorney, said last week that the charges would be dropped at the urging of the couple that lived in the home as part of a settlement of a civil suit Warfield had filed against the couple.

But other officials in the state's attorney's office and a housing official whose inspection led to the criminal charges said they knew of no plans to drop or reduce the charges.

The criminal case, originally scheduled to be heard April 5 in District Court, was postponed and moved to Circuit Court because Warfield requested a jury trial. No new trial date has been set.

Charging documents allege that the home had not beensecured to the ground or positioned on blocks properly to ensure safety and stability. The home lacked required steps and landings at front and back doors, the complaint charges.

The complaint, filed last July in Harford District Court, also accuses Warfield of failing toobtain necessary county permits or to have the home inspected, as required by the county's minimum standard housing code.

Richard D. Lynch, mobile home and abandoned properties coordinator at the county Department of Inspections, Licensing and Permits, called the housing code violations among the worst he had ever seen at a mobile home.

"The living conditions were absolutely deplorable and definitely a threat to the health and safety of the tenants," said Lynch, whose inspections in January and February of last year prompted the criminal charges.

"These were just blatant violations of laws (Warfield) wasquite familiar with, and he made no attempt to correct any of them."

Warfield, who served as town mayor in 1980, refused comment last week, saying only that the allegations had nothing to do with his decision not to seek public office for the first time in 14 years.

The criminal charges grew out of complaints from Herbert and Mary Emma McVey. The McVeys and their son lived in the mobile home about 11 months before moving in March of last year into a modular home Warfield built for them on the same site.

Warfield filed his civil suit against the McVeys April 27, 1990, claiming the couple owed him $8,692 for the $55,500 modular home and for unpaid rent on the mobile home, court records show.

Mary Emma McVey said in a telephone interview that the couple has refused to pay the $8,692 because of poor living conditions in the mobile home, serious flaws in the new home and a delay in construction of more than nine months after they were told it would be completed. The couple has paid $50,000 toward the new home, she said.

She said Warfield had agreed about a week ago to drop thecivil suit if the couple would pay $3,000 by the end of this month and ask that the criminal charges be dropped. The case has yet to be settled, she said.

McVey called the family's stay in the mobile home a "nightmare."

She said they relied on a gas stove for heat in the winter because the home lacked a furnace hook-up. They placed buckets under leaking pipes, emptied the kitchen sink manually because the drain did not work and continually mopped up water from a leaking refrigerator, she said.

Family members also feared for their safetybecause the home was not level or tied down with cables.

When they complained, Warfield responded with what McVey called "his favoriteline." She said: "He always said, 'Well, Mrs. McVey, you seem to know all the answers. Why don't you tell me how to fix it?' "

The newhome, too, has fallen far short of the family's expectations, McVey said. There, she said, the woodwork is splitting, paint peels from interior and exterior walls and a gap in the hallway ceiling has continually grown.

"It really makes you sick to your stomach to live this way," she said. "We went into this with Mr. Warfield in good faith. But now I wish we had never seen the man."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.