Sinclair Gate, Lorelly Court apartments ordered by HUD to fire management firm

Response to allegations of visitor ban, harassment

August 10, 1999|By Amy Oakes | Amy Oakes,SUN STAFF

The owner of two Northeast Baltimore apartment developments has been told by federal officials to fire their management company and hire new security as a result of tenant complaints alleging bans on visitors and harassment.

The Public Justice Center, a nonprofit civil rights and anti-poverty organization in Baltimore, complained nearly two weeks ago in a letter to the management company, security company, area police and the federal government that the practices alleged to have occurred violate state law and are unconstitutional.

"The things they were doing there were wrong," said Marzell Lilly, 53, who moved last August from her spacious two-bedroom unit at Lorelly Court Apartments -- her home of 30 years, and, with the nearby Sinclair Gate complex, the subject of the complaints. "I just wanted to get away from there."

Lilly, who lives in the 6000 block of Amberwood Road, said that management first removed her grown son from the lease so he could not stay with her. Then -- when he tried to visit -- security guards harassed him, and management tried to evict her, she said.

In May, tenants received a list of 142 people who were no longer allowed on Sinclair Gate and Lorelly Court property.

The letter said that these people were known to "traffick illegal activities."

Barbara Roberson, who lives in the 4800 block of Sinclair Lane, said her two grandsons were on the list and prohibited from visiting an aunt -- her daughter -- who lives at Sinclair Gate.

Security guards, she said, would try to lure her grandsons, Terrell Fitzgerald and Damon Tinsley, onto the complex's property and then arrest them for trespassing.

"I was really hurt, because they just do people wrong," Roberson said.

The apartments -- which are certified to house tenants receiving Section 8 federal housing assistance -- are owned by Baltimore area developer Carl T. Julio. He was told Friday by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fire their management company, Charles Tini and Associates Inc./CT Management of Beltsville, and replace Flagship Investigations, the security firm.

Harold D. Young, HUD's Maryland coordinator, said building problems weren't being fixed, residents were continually calling with complaints, and the security guards had become "overreaching" in their enforcement, forcing the federal agency to take the uncommon action of demanding the firing of the management company.

"There was a very poor relationship between Flagship and the residents, and CT Management and the residents," Young said.

Frank Dvorak, president of Flagship Investigations, deferred questions to the property manager. Julio could not be reached, and officials from CT Management -- which HUD said had terminated Flagship's contract Aug. 2 -- did not return calls.

Advocates for the poor say the situation at Sinclair Gate and Lorelly Court -- resident complaints of abuse and harassment by security guards -- is being repeated across the country.

"This is a systemic problem for HUD and low-income housing where tenants are treated like prisoners," said Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, a lawyer at the Public Justice Center. "Visitors are not allowed, and they monitor every move."

Eisenberg said the center had been working with residents for several months, but that action was prompted by the list, which was sent in May.

In a similar case in Frederick, in which public housing officials banned nonresidents who were deemed undesirable and threatened to evict tenants who allowed them onto the property, the poverty center filed a federal lawsuit seeking to end the ban.

A federal judge ordered the ban temporarily lifted last month, pending a trial.

"It treats the residents like prisoners," Eisenberg said.

"It was creating a prison, rather than a neighborhood."

Pub Date: 8/10/99

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