Hiring of Ga. auctioneer angers local group's head

March 08, 1994|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer Staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

Baltimore has hired an Atlanta company to handle a special auction of more than 200 of the city's vacant homes -- a move that has angered a local representative of the Commercial Auctioneers Association of Maryland Inc.

Hudson & Marshall Inc. will receive $121,300 plus 6 percent of the gross sales receipts to plan, market and conduct the April auction, called the Baltimore Home Festival.

The city Department of Housing and Community Development's contract with the company and its partner, Atlanta-based Asset Property Disposition Inc., was granted without competitive bidding, said agency spokesman Zack Germroth. The contract was approved by the Board of Estimates last week.

Jack Billig, an auctioneer from the A. J. Billig & Co. at 16 E. Fayette St. and president of the auctioneers association, sent an angry letter Feb. 18 asking city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke to open the bidding to local companies.

Mr. Billig's son, Dan, said the association hasn't received a response from the city officials.

"I'm not upset that I'm not running the auction, but I am upset that nobody locally was given a consideration and that nobody from the mayor on down seems to care," said Dan Billig, whose 76-year-old company has run five city tax sales.

"I think the auction is a great idea, but the way the city obtained its auctioneer was not through its normal procedure, which was to put it out to competitive bid."

Tom Jaudon, chief of the Homeownership Institute at the housing department, said the agency let the contract after it received unsolicited bids from Hudson & Marshall for the work.

"That happens all the time. The city had no knowledge that these other auction companies could perform all these services," he said, adding that Mr. Henson decided to proceed with the contract.

The Baltimore Home Festival will be held April 23-25 at the Baltimore Convention Center in connection with a fair that will focus on city real estate and attract local real estate agents, bankers and housing experts.

Hudson & Marshall will receive $121,300 to establish a local office, hold neighborhood seminars and conduct marketing for the auction, Mr. Jaudon said.

Dan Billig said he was outraged to learn that city housing funds would be spent to open a special office when, he said, local auctioneers could handle the work.

He called the work "normal auction services."

"It is the most outrageous, flagrant waste of money when you have people who not only maintain offices in the city but pay an annual city license fee of $1,600 -- which is higher than anywhere else in the country," he said.

Mr. Schmoke said in defending the hiring of Hudson & Marshall, "One [local] firm called to complain. Mr. Henson explained the nature of the auction, and after he was done, that particular firm agreed that they couldn't have done the work."

The mayor added that understaffed city housing officials could not perform the kind of work that the auctioneer is expected to do for the special sale.

"This is a minority business firm," Mr. Schmoke said. "They're experts in handling this type of auction." Hudson & Marshall is the largest auctioneer in the Southeast for the Resolution Trust Corp.

The auction will include 125 city-owned homes that will require total rehabilitation.

About 75 other homes that will become available after foreclosures by state and federal agencies also will be sold.

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