City councilman to propose bills to curb power of housing authority commissioner Move set to coincide with Henson's hearing

February 13, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

An article in yesterday's editions reported incorrectly the number of councilmanic votes required to override a mayoral veto. The correct number is 15.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore City Councilman Martin O'Malley is expected to introduce three bills at tonight's council meeting that aim to revamp the city's housing authority, blunt the power of the agency's commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, and give the council more sway in housing issues.

Mr. O'Malley said the legislation stems from the City Council's months-long tussle with Mr. Henson over the merits of the $25.6 million no-bid housing repair program that last year had risked millions of dollars on start-up construction companies with little experience.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

The action comes at a critical time for Mr. Henson, who will appear before the City Council tomorrow for a hearing on his reconfirmation as head of both the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.

The 19-member council is expected to vote later this month on Mr. Henson's appointment.

"Is this intentional? Yes," said Mr. O'Malley, who is a critic of Mr. Henson. "I have an obligation to get this out to the council before it votes on a person who has demonstrated contempt for internal controls and for government responsibility."

Mr. O'Malley's first bill would require the housing authority to submit quarterly budget reports to the City Council.

The second bill would require Mr. Henson to give up his directorships over one of the two agencies.

The third would prohibit the city solicitor's office from providing legal aid to the housing authority.

Mr. O'Malley also is introducing a resolution that would allow Council President Lawrence A. Bell III to appoint a council representative to the Board of Housing Commissioners.

Mr. Henson said yesterday that he would not comment because he has not seen the legislation.

The acrimony between Mr. Henson and Mr. O'Malley reached a boiling point in April.

It was then that Mr. O'Malley, as head of the Legislative Investigations Committee, tried to force housing authority Chairman Reginald C. Thomas to explain his role in the no-bid repair program. Since then, 13 people, six of them involved in the repair program, have been convicted of corruption.

But Mr. Thomas refused, on the advice of City Solicitor Neal M. Janey and with the backing of Mr. Henson. The matter was taken to the Maryland Court of Appeals, which refused to hear the case.

Mr. Thomas said yesterday that he does not see any need for the proposed changes.

"Mr. O'Malley says a lot of things about a number of things that he's totally unfamiliar with. So I'm not surprised that he might make some off-the-wall comments," Mr. Thomas said.

The bills will likely have limited impact because many council members strongly support Mr. Henson.

If Mr. O'Malley manages to get majority support within the council to pass the legislation, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke likely would not approve the changes.

If that happened, Mr. O'Malley would have to persuade 13 of the 19 council members to overturn the mayor's veto -- a long shot at best.

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