Henson to face scrutiny for post Housing official's hearing may be hostile

January 30, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III is likely to face a hostile reception next month when he goes before a City Council committee to explain why he should keep his job. The council, during its meet Henson is one of six appointees that Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke wants the council to reconfirm.

The other appointees, including City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, also were given February hearing dates last night. But it is Mr. Henson's hearing that is expected to be the most controversial because of his support of a $25.6 million no-bid repair program.

The 19-member council must vote to reconfirm the appointees, who technically have been in acting positions since early last month.

Reacting to a story reported Sunday in The Sun that one of Mr. Henson's housing inspectors, Henry J. Reed III, acknowledged renting several properties that are in severe disrepair, 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley said, "It [the story] couldn't have come at a better time."

Council members refused to comment publicly about Mr. Henson's chances for reconfirmation.

Last year, Mr. Henson and the council engaged in a dispute over the no-bid repair program for public housing. The council tried unsuccessfully to force Reginald C. Thomas, chairman of the Baltimore City Housing Authority board, to explain his role in the program that federal auditors found had risked millions on start-up repair with little experience.

Mr. Henson staunchly defended the repair program and worked to prevent Mr. Thomas from appearing before the council. The legal battle was taken to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which refused to hear the case.

First District Councilwoman Lois Garey, who chairs the Executive Appointments Committee, acknowledged that Mr. Henson's reconfirmation hearing could be hostile. She plans to meet with him to discuss what he should expect.

"I'd like him to hear it before he reads it in the paper," she said.

Mrs. Garey and the other council members have been uncharacteristically closed-mouth about controversial issues, mostly due to prodding by council President Lawrence A. Bell III, who, just hours before yesterday's council meeting, asked members to not "get bogged down in discord."

He advised members, who publicly squabbled last week over the council's African-American Coalition's exclusion of white colleagues from a secret meeting, to act more businesslike.

"I want everyone to be conscious that we are before the public and TV cameras," Mr. Bell said. "I want to set a harmonious tone and I'm pleased we are developing that."

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