Housing Authority chief lauds Brown's credentials Aide says mayor knew of problems

November 17, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

Eric Brown, the Baltimore Housing Authority's controversial new deputy executive director, was described by the authority's board chairman yesterday as a public housing administrator with a "truly impressive management background."

"He will provide an even fresher energy to resident driven programs," said Reg Thomas, chairman of the

authority's board of commissioners. "He has an enviable management and administrative background, specifically in public housing."

Mr. Thomas' comments came during a meeting in which Mr. Brown was introduced to the Housing Authority commissioners.

Monday was Mr. Brown's first day in the $90,000-a-year job. He is responsible for overseeing the Housing Authority's daily operations including its work with tenants.

Mr. Brown stepped down from his post as head of the Meridian, Miss., housing authority to become deputy to Daniel P. Henson III, the executive


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director of the Baltimore authority.

Yesterday, Mr. Henson expressed strong support for Mr. Brown.

"He is a gentleman that we were fortunate to attract out of the bowels of Mississippi to come to Baltimore," Mr. Henson said.

"We thought this was an individual who gave us a feeling he had a strong commitment to resident involvement."

In April, federal housing officials suspended Mr. Brown for one year without pay after he submitted a 1993 grant application that included the photocopied and unauthorized signature of then-Mayor James Kemp of Meridian from a 1992 application, according to Sandra Freeman, manager of the Mississippi regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. Kemp had declined to sign the application.

The suspension was reduced to three months after an appeal and an expression of remorse, Ms. Freeman said.

Also, Mr. Brown was fired in 1988 from his position as deputy director of the Birmingham, Ala., housing authority. Mr. Brown, who is an African-American, attributes his suspension to racism and says he was fired after a new executive

director took over in Birmingham and decided he wanted "his own people" to fill key slots.

The problems in Mr. Brown's employment history were disclosed in a story that appeared in The Sun Saturday.

Mr. Brown was scheduled to appear at a welcoming ceremony at City Hall Monday, but the event was abruptly canceled. Later that day, Clint Coleman, the mayor's spokesman, said that a conflict in the mayor's schedule had forced the cancellation.

Mr. Coleman said that the mayor was aware of Mr. Brown's problems in Mississippi and supported his hiring, but that Mr. Schmoke is now scrutinizing other aspects of Mr. Brown's employment record.

"I don't want want to downplay the fact that he [the mayor] is looking into this. To be sure, he wants some answers to the questions raised. He wants to know how does this guy answer these charges. If he has misrepresented himself, that would be a problem," Mr. Coleman said Monday.

Mr. Brown's hiring has rankled two public housing tenants who sat on the committee formed select a new deputy director.

Committee member Devon Wilford said that the candidates were rated on several factors including work performance and administrative skills.

She said that she gave Mr. Brown high marks, but her rating would have been lower had she known about his employment problems.

Ms. Wilford also said that Mr. Henson promised the panel that he would report back to it with the conclusion of a background check on Mr. Brown's employment history.

But the panel never heard from Mr. Henson, she said.

"No one told us. We're just finding this stuff out," Ms. Wilford said. "I wonder what their motive was to pick him."

Goldie Baker, another resident who served on the panel, said: "I felt the committee was a rubber stamp, so I don't think residents had a voice in this.

"That's just the way they [the Housing Authority members] are."

During an interview earlier this week, Mr. Brown attributed his problems in Mississippi to a mistake made by his staff when it put together the grant application.

"People are entitled to their opinions, but I know it was an error and an honest mistake," Mr. Brown said.

"When you have 60 pages of 10 copies each, it is possible to make an error and that's what occurred in this particular case. I did not personally Xerox the thing. I did not direct anyone to go and do that."

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