Baltimore County says it won better deal in housing bias suit Court intervention could have cost millions

April 10, 1996|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials said yesterday that their aggressive opposition to an initial settlement of an ACLU housing discrimination suit against Baltimore won a better deal than any intervention in court.

County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III said the revised settlement is better for everyone because of guarantees, money and support added to the October agreement.

And though he still opposes moving poor families from Baltimore to the suburbs, he said, "We got a tremendous settlement."

County Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Pikesville Democrat, agreed after an hourlong closed briefing from Mr. Ruppersberger and attorneys for the county. "The county got the best deal it could," Mr. Kamenetz said.

County Attorney Virginia W. Barnhart cautioned that the county will monitor quarterly progress reports on the settlement's implementation, and still could intervene in court if terms are violated.

Mr. Ruppersberger said the county has won new promises of support from the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on other troubled public housing, including Hollander Ridge inside the city line near Dundalk.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to break what it called a pattern of segregation in Baltimore's public housing. The settlement is designed to move hundreds of public housing families to the suburbs.

The county won a 360-family limit over six years. It also received promises of several million dollars in federal aid to help support those who move, including $750 per Section 8 rental certificate to help provide job training, day care and transportation.

Also, screening procedures will disqualify any family whose members have been convicted of violent crimes or drug use. Anyone who is convicted after moving will be kicked out of the program, Mr. Ruppersberger said.

Howard W. Gutman of Williams and Connelly, the Washington law firm hired by the county to fight the original settlement, said that plan was intended "to solve the city's problems at the expense of the county. Now that's changed to a program that should have no noticeable effects in the county."

If the county had intervened in court, officials said, legal fees could have run into the millions. And the county could have been required under a federal court order to build public housing with county tax money.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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