Candidate's brother faces housing citation

City inspector notes poor condition of house owned by Marshall C. Bell

September 01, 1999|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

The younger brother and former campaign chief to mayoral candidate Lawrence A. Bell III has been cited by the Baltimore Housing Department for maintaining a property "not fit for human habitation."

Records also show that an arrest warrant was issued on Aug. 14 for Marshall C. Bell for missing a court date on the housing code citation on property he owns at 2800 Auchentoroly Terrace. The warrant was rescinded about a week later, after Marshall Bell's lawyer, Frank D. Boston III of Baltimore, petitioned the court for his client.

Marshall Bell, 30, did not respond to a request through Boston for comment.

Lawrence Bell, who proposed on Monday's televised debate to create a dollar-house program to fix up dilapidated and vacant homes, had little to say about his brother's housing troubles.

In a brief interview, mayoral candidate Bell said that the house was vacant when his sibling purchased it in 1994 and it is being renovated. He declined to say why inspectors concluded that no active rehabilitation has taken place.

The candidate also noted that under his dollar rehab proposal, a homeowner would have "two to three years to bring it up to code."

Boston, the younger Bell's lawyer, said yesterday that the arrest warrant was the result of miscommunication and that his client did not ignore the citation.

Boston, who described the case as "routine," said that Marshall Bell never got the original violation notice, and that the notice of the arrest warrant ended up in a pile of unopened mail.

"As you know, he's been working on the campaign most of the time. This was a letter that didn't get opened right away. As soon as he did open it, he took care of it," Boston said.

According to city court records, city housing inspectors first cited the Bell property on March 5. An inspector's report on the same date states, "Failed to maintain building fit for human habitation." The report also cites Marshall Bell for failing to register the property, located south of West Baltimore's Druid Hill Park, with the Housing Department.

The inspection report indicates that the property was partially boarded up and that trash, including an old tire and glass and paper, were observed on the property.

"No evidence of active rehabilitation in progress at the time of inspection," the report states.

The inspection report was the basis for a court complaint filed on June 8.

Boston declined to comment on the complaint or the inspection report and stated that a formal response will be made in court.

City land records show Marshall Bell purchased the property on Feb. 2, 1994, from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for $21,600. On the same day, he and his mother took out a $10,000 mortgage on the property. The house has not been occupied during the time Bell has owned it.

Marshall Bell also owns a second property at 2810 Auchentoroly, which he purchased from his parents in 1992.

Walter G. Hill, a 51-year resident of the neighborhood, said yesterday that he had complained to Marshall Bell about the conditions of both properties, but there was no response. He said the rundown condition was attracting drug users.

"It's a hangout for drug users," said Hill, adding, "You'd think someone who wants to be mayor would be more concerned about the neighborhood."

Marshall Bell's case was originally scheduled for a court hearing on July 15. It was rescheduled for Aug. 12 and, according to the court docket, he failed to appear in court on that date. The arrest warrant was issued the same day.

Boston, records show, petitioned the court on Aug. 20, asking that the warrant be rescinded. The petition states that Marshall Bell "plans to attend court and clean the property. The defendant states that the prior lack of response was do to mis-communication."

The case has been rescheduled for Sept. 16.

Marshall Bell served as his brother's campaign manager until early last month. Though he didn't receive a salary, a company he formed in February, Impact Solutions, Inc., had been paid $22,500 as of early last month by the campaign committee for his services. The payments ranged from $500 to $3,000 per month.

Pub Date: 9/01/99

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