Lead inspector bought 3 city houses he tested

Health commissioner says instances violated ethics

December 10, 2003|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

An investigation by Baltimore health officials has determined that lead inspector Ali Sardarizadeh, who owns or has an interest in more than two dozen properties, purchased at least three city properties after inspecting them.

Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson said yesterday that Sardarizadeh conducted initial inspections on two houses, later purchased them and then continued inspecting them without notifying managers in the department's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program of his ownership.

Beilenson also said Sardarizadeh was assigned a house in the 2900 block of Frederick Ave. in March that he inspected and then bought in July.

"In all of these issues, he committed severe ethical violations," Beilenson said. "Also, there's a question of insider trading because he knew the properties' histories and therefore could use that information to drive a better bargain. Now whether or not that was actually done, I don't know, but there's clearly the appearance of improprieties. Unquestionably, it is clearly inappropriate for someone to inspect their own properties and to neglect to tell his supervisor that he owned or had an interest in them."

Sardarizadeh came under fire last week after officials with the Maryland Department of the Environment announced they had fined him $100,000 for failing to address lead violations at four rental properties - violations that date to 1998. At that time, MDE officials said the lead inspector owned at least four city houses - in the 300 block of Whitridge Ave., the 1800 block of Aisquith St., the 1800 block of Wilhelm St. and the 800 block of McCabe Ave.

Since then, numerous properties have been linked to Sardarizadeh, including some discovered by officials with the Baltimore-based Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning.

Beilenson said yesterday that Sardarizadeh - who has been suspended from his $30,000 job with pay - refused to attend a meeting with department officials to discuss findings of their investigation.

"He refused to come in today when he was called," Beilenson said. "A final decision on his employment will be made on Thursday."

Beilenson said he believes some of the 26 properties health officials have linked to Sardarizadeh are occupied, though he did not know how many or which ones. He said he did not know whether anyone has been harmed by elevated lead levels while living in a home owned by Sardarizadeh.

MDE spokesman Richard J. McIntire said yesterday he had no new information to release concerning the department's investigation of Sardarizadeh.

Efforts to reach Sardarizadeh yesterday were unsuccessful. In an interview with The Sun last week, he denied allegations that he purchased properties after performing inspections on them and said he owns only two houses - the Mary Avenue house he lives in and one in the 1800 block of Wilhelm St.

He said he has proof that he did not inspect properties he owns and that he is being targeted because he is Iranian.

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