Acts against MTO may face scrutiny by rights panel

November 30, 1994|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore County Human Relations Commission has instructed its executive director to investigate any formal discrimination complaint springing from a federal program that would broaden housing choices for residents of Baltimore public housing.

The program, Moving to Opportunity, will help about 285 Baltimore families to move from public housing into better neighborhoods in the city and surrounding suburbs. It has been a subject of controversy in eastern Baltimore County, where residents said they feared that their neighborhoods would be flooded by poor families from the inner city.

Commission Chairman Maurice C. Taylor said opposition based on race, sex, disability or marital status is a violation of the county code's Title 19, which prohibits discrimination in housing. "No formal, written complaint has been brought to our attention, but we want to go on record as saying that any obstacles based on discrimination would be illegal under Title 19," Dr. Taylor said.

Dr. Taylor said the commission began to receive complaints in April about what he termed the racist tone of the MTO opposition and has been monitoring the situation since then.

The commission has told County Executive Roger B. Hayden that overt opposition to MTO, if based on discrimination, is a crime under the code.

"People have the right to speak out against the program," said the commission's executive director, Celestine Morgan. "But we want to get across that specific actions, such as denying an MTO applicant housing because of race, would be a violation of the law."

Ms. Morgan said the commission wants to make sure that the public is receiving accurate information about MTO, and that the commission's powers to enforce Title 19 are clear to the public.

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