Court clerk sues city over residence of 17 officials

June 23, 2004|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

Frank M. Conaway, Baltimore mayoral candidate and Circuit Court clerk, filed a lawsuit yesterday calling for 17 high-ranking city officials to be removed from their jobs, claiming they do not live or vote in Baltimore as required by the city charter.

But several of the officials named in the lawsuit said last night that Conaway's information is flawed because they do, in fact, live and vote in the city.

"It is certainly news to me I don't live in the city. It will be news to my husband, also," said Kristen Mahoney, executive director of the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice. "I love owning a home in the city. I wear my city citizenship on my sleeve."

Mahoney said she has lived in Southwest Baltimore since 1995. She also said she votes in the city and worked the polls during the last local election.

According to the city charter, all heads of city departments and bureaus "shall be residents and registered voters of Baltimore City." The charter gives new appointments six months to comply, or face termination.

Conaway's lawsuit - filed in city Circuit Court - names such officials as Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark, Fire Chief William T. Goodwin, Housing Director Paul T. Graziano and Director of Human Resources Elliott L. Wheelan.

In fact, Clark bought an apartment in Baltimore last year and Graziano lives in Charles Towers. Wheelan rents an apartment in the city, according to the lawsuit. And Goodwin's assistant, Roman Clark, said yesterday that the fire chief lives in downtown Baltimore.

Graziano and Wheelan registered to vote more than six months after their appointments, the lawsuit alleges. Last night, it could not be determined whether Clark and Goodwin are registered to vote in the city.

Conaway said he bought the personal information about the city officials for $100 from the Board of the Supervisor of Elections. But he said he did not know how current the information was. "I don't know the dates," he said.

City Solicitor Ralph Tyler said he is looking into whether the 17 people named in the lawsuit live and vote in Baltimore. He also said he believes some of the people are exempt from the requirement.

"We are going to get a list of everybody and find out who is in compliance," Tyler said. "I know some people who are on the list and aren't subject to it. I know others who are on the list but live in the city."

In a news release, Conaway said that while homeownership is not a requirement by law, it "speaks volumes" about the city.

"Baltimore is run by people who haven't invested their hearts and souls in the city," Conaway said. "The mayor says that he wants to increase home ownership, but he can't get the members of his own administration to buy houses in Baltimore and participate in civic life."

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