Pratt is told to release aide's job file City solicitor asserts public right to details on work background

'Legitimate interest'

Comptroller studies opinion amid uproar over real estate chief

April 09, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, under fire for hiring her campaign manager and friend to head the city's real estate department, must make public his professional background, the city solicitor ruled yesterday.

Despite repeated requests by news organizations over the past three weeks, Ms. Pratt has not provided any details on the professional experience of Julius Henson, whom she appointed last month to oversee Baltimore's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio.

The city's top lawyer, Neal M. Janey, advised her yesterday to release Mr. Henson's resume and a summary of his background based on his application for the $79,900 job. Mr. Janey was responding to requests under Maryland public information laws by The Sun, the Afro-American and WJZ-TV.

"The public certainly has a legitimate interest in having access to details about the background of Mr. Henson in order to judge for itself whether Mr. Henson has the 'knowledge, skills, abilities, education and experience' set forth in the job specifications," Mr. Janey wrote in a five-page opinion.

Ms. Pratt's office said she had received the opinion and was reviewing it.

The first-term comptroller has been embroiled in controversy over her business, political and personal relationships with Mr. Henson.

In hiring Mr. Henson, a business partner who managed her campaign for comptroller, Ms. Pratt described him as the "best qualified" person, although she said he was the only one she interviewed.

The Sun reported that Mr. Henson and Ms. Pratt went on three trips abroad in the past three years, including one this winter to Jamaica. Ms. Pratt said they are "very good friends," but that their friendship played no role in his hiring.

Although Ms. Pratt has said she sold her interest in nine investment properties to Mr. Henson during the campaign last summer, city property records still show both of them as the owners of record of six. The other three rental properties are listed under the names of corporations or limited partnerships.

In an interview last week, Ms. Pratt said she has asked her lawyer to take steps to have her name removed from the corporate records and deeds.

Mr. Henson's experience in real estate comes principally from doing renovation work and owning a string of rental homes.

He is under review by city prosecutors for not correcting code violations at one East Baltimore property.

The job description calls for a bachelor's degree and "five years of experience in performing real estate negotiation, brokerage, appraisal or management work," including three years of supervisory duties. It also states that the appointee "shall not engage in private real estate business."

Mr. Henson has said he plans to sell his rental properties.

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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