Henson under review by city Code violations on his rental housing went uncorrected

Criminal charges sought

Rowhouse in question was bought with Joan Pratt

March 30, 1996|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Joan Jacobson contributed to this article.

Julius Henson, appointed by Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt to oversee the city's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio, is under review by city prosecutors for failing to correct code violations on one of his East Baltimore rental properties.

The action is the culmination of a 10-month effort by the city's housing department to force Mr. Henson to make the needed repairs and could result in a fine of as much as $500 a day.

"We have forwarded the case to the state's attorney for review for prosecution as a criminal misdemeanor," Robert Dengler, director of housing inspection services for the city housing department, said yesterday.

Baltimore's attempt to seek criminal charges comes amid the reported that the pair took three trips abroad together in the past three years. A week earlier, in naming Mr. Henson to the position, Mr. Pratt described him as the "best qualified" person for the job, even as she acknowledged that she had not interviewed anyone else.

At issue in the housing department's request for prosecution is a rowhouse at 2508 E. Federal St. that Mr. Henson bought with Ms. Pratt in 1993.

Ms. Pratt has said for months that she sold her interests in nine investment properties that she owned with Mr. Henson -- including 2508 E. Federal St. -- during her campaign for comptroller last summer.

But a review of city property records Thursday showed Mr. Henson and Ms. Pratt as the owners of record of six of the properties, including the one on Federal Street.

The other three properties -- which Ms. Pratt listed as co-owning with Mr. Henson on a financial disclosure form she filed in June -- were listed in the names of corporations or limited partnerships.

Asked to explain the apparent discrepancy between the public record and her public comments, an aide to Ms. Pratt referred a reporter to her attorney.

The attorney, Phillip O. Tilghman, said that all the properties were held in partnerships or corporations and that Ms. Pratt had sold her interests in those entities to Mr. Henson last summer.

"She sold him her stock," Mr. Tilghman said. He said documentation of the stock transfer exists but that he declined to release it.

Earlier this week, Mr. Henson said Ms. Pratt did not have an interest in any of the properties and that he soon hoped to sell them. "I have someone who is interested in buying them and we're trying to work out the terms," he said.

Notices of the housing violations at 2508 E. Federal St. listed Mr. Henson and Ms. Pratt as owners of the occupied property.

Yesterday, Ms. Pratt did not respond to a request for an interview. An employee in Mr. Henson's office said yesterday afternoon that he was too busy to come to the phone.

"He won't have time to respond," said the employee, who declined to give her name. "He's in meetings for the rest of the day."

The code violations include missing tile and rotting wood on the kitchen floor and a defective pipe that carries waste from the house.

Mr. Henson also has not filed an annual $15 registration fee, due Sept. 1, required of all owners of rental and vacant properties, according to the violation notice.

A violation notice was issued on the property in May and a supplemental notice was issued in September, documents show.

In October, the housing department notified Mr. Henson by letter and telephone that the violations were outstanding, and an inspection two weeks ago revealed that they had not been corrected, Mr. Dengler said.

Each year, the housing department issues about 30,000 notices of violation, but refers only several hundred for prosecution, officials said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Henson is scheduled to go to trial in a civil case April 29 for unpaid gas and electric bills totaling $1,698.74.

District Court records show he owes $168.81 for unpaid utilities at an office he maintained at 3023 Federal St. The records do not show where the rest of the unpaid bills originated.

In addition, Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. and the District Court sent notices of the unpaid bills to Mr. Henson at Ms. Pratt's address in North Baltimore. The court notice of the trial, postmarked March 1 and sent by certified mail, was returned to the court unopened.

Pub Date: 3/30/96

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