Omni House Seeks Damages From Condo Developer

Refusal To Sell Units Said To Cost Program Time And Money

October 13, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

BALTIMORE — A prominent Glen Burnie developer cost a program for the mentally ill more than $12,500 and upset patients at Crownsville Hospital Centerby refusing to sell 12 promised condominiums, witnesses testified infederal court Friday.

Administrators for Omni House, a non-profitrehabilitation program, said they lost fees and spent hours in meetings and counseling worried patients at Crownsville after developer Frank J. Scott abruptly canceled a $1.4 million sales agreement last April.

Omni House and one of its clients, James G., a 27-year-old patient at Crownsville, fought back by suing Scott for housing discrimination. In June, U.S. District Judge Marvin J. Garbis found the developerguilty of violating fair-housing laws and ordered him to finish building the condominiums, part of a sprawling 900-unit complex under construction off Ordnance Road.

During a hearing to assess damages Friday, Omni House managers listed several hundred hours they were forced to devote to the court case and reassuring 24 clients waiting for housing. They also cited lost client fees and legal expenses in seeking $12,593 in damages, along with $500,000 in penalties.

"It was rather devastating," said Lois Miller, executive director of the 10-year-old program. "It created a lot of problems for our clients and staff. We had to deal with the membership, and like I said, they were extremely upset. The staff was very upset also."

Miller also testified that John Pantelides, who heads management and sales for the Cromwell Fountain complex, intimidated her and indirectly offered a bribe during one meeting.

"There were a lot of veiled threats and innuendo," she said. "At the end of the meeting, John Pantelides (who directs management and sales for Scott's company) got up and said, 'The last time Cromwell Fountain had to do this it cost them $40,000, and what did I want?' "

Miller said she answered, "I want housing."

Cromwell Fountain's attorney, James G. Praley, contested many of the hours claimed by the Omni House staff. He pointed out hours listed before the agreement was canceled and questioned several Omni House administrators on each item.

Marie Macklin, residential director for Omni House, said the damages couldn't cover the fears of the patients at Crownsville. Six moved out of the state hospital and into apartments leased by Omni House. Some feared they would have to go back to Crownsville, she said.

Another 10 patients had to stay at Crownsville until the case was settled. The remaining eight clients already were living in the community, Macklin said.

All but five of the 24 clients have moved into the two-bedroom condominiums at Cromwell Fountain since Omni House closed on the homes in September.

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