Housing group's complaint settled

Real estate agent claimed Taneytown man threatened him

September 02, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A Taneytown man has agreed to pay $5,500, attend counseling sessions and perform community service as part of a settlement of a complaint that he threatened a local real estate agent to prevent a sale to black homebuyers.

Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., a fair-housing advocacy group, filed the complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, contending Allan M. Roberts swore and used racial slurs when he confronted real estate agent Jackie E. Robertson in July and October 1998. Both men are white.

An official of Baltimore Neighborhoods claimed that Robertson lost countless nights of sleep worrying about his family's safety after he was confronted by Roberts, a Baltimore firefighter. Robertson was so scared he bought a dog to protect his family, the official said.

"The complaint was filed with regard to his entire family," said Martin Dyer, associate director for Baltimore Neighborhoods.

Robertson contacted the housing group after he said he was harassed for a second time. Baltimore Neighborhoods, with offices across Maryland, including Carroll County, in turn filed its complaint with HUD.

HUD attorneys reached the settlement with Robert's attorney, Michael Green, on July 27. Details were released by Baltimore Neighborhoods yesterday.

Green denied the allegations in the complaint and disputed most of the information in a press release from Baltimore Neighborhoods, which characterized the incident as "race-related harassment."

"Mr. Roberts is concerned about Section 8 [federally subsidized] housing going into that neighborhood," said Green, a Towson attorney. "It has nothing to do with race, it's the fact people would not be paying the kind of money he and other families were paying to live there."

The settlement calls for Roberts to pay $5,000 to Robertson over a 20-month period and to pay $500 to Baltimore Neighborhoods to cover the cost of its investigation.

Roberts is required to complete 12 sessions of anger-management counseling and perform three hours of community service monthly over the next two years.

"We hope the community service that he is required to provide will help him learn to relate to African-Americans as fellow human beings who want the same respect he seeks and who deserve the same fair treatment that he feels he is entitled to," Dyer said.

Robertson could not be reached for comment.

In a report filed with Taneytown police July 27, 1998, Robertson said he was helping neighbors in Taneytown's Copperfield development find a lost kitten when he was approached by Roberts, who lives in Copperfield.

The police said Robertson told them that a neighbor he identified only as Allan threatened him, saying, "You better not think about selling a home to [blacks] and putting them next to me, or it will be the last house you sell."

In the second incident, Robertson contacted Taneytown police Oct. 13, 1998, after he was approached again by Roberts in the development's sales center. Robertson claimed Roberts swore at him and used racial slurs again.

After the police chief spoke to Roberts, police thought the matter had been resolved, said Lt. Greg Woelfel. "It's not against the law to do what he [Roberts] did," Woelfel said.

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