Auction of housing authority vehicles must proceed, lawyer says

Attorney for lead-poisoning victims rebuts agency move to prevent sale to help pay $2.6 million court judgment

January 18, 2012|By Scott Calvert, The Baltimore Sun

Two siblings trying to collect a $2.6 million judgment against Baltimore's public housing agency for lead-paint poisoning argue in court papers that an auction of 20 agency vehicles must go forward because officials have refused to pay.

The Housing Authority of Baltimore City "must be treated like every other judgment debtor that fails to pay its debts," their attorney, Evan M. Goldman, wrote in a motion filed Wednesday in Baltimore Circuit Court.

Goldman said siblings Antonio Fulgham and Brittany McCutcheon are in the "unenviable" position of having to press for an auction of the vehicles. The housing authority owes several plaintiffs more than $11 million in court-ordered lead-paint judgments.

The housing authority filed a motion Friday asking a judge to prevent its property from being sold to help pay the debt. That move came after the Baltimore sheriff's office began the process of seizing 20 vehicles — trucks and a Bobcat — in preparation for an auction.

Fulgham and McCutcheon, who suffered lead poisoning while living in public housing, won jury awards in 2010, but the housing agency has resisted making payments while it appeals the case.

In a statement Friday, the housing authority argued that the facts of the siblings' case do not support the jury findings. It also claimed that paying the judgments would threaten its ability to provide affordable housing.

Goldman countered that the authority is "simply attempting to stall the sale" of the vehicles. He noted that his clients can proceed with collection during the appeal, because the agency chose not to set aside money in an appeal bond.

He said it was "frivolous and disingenuous" for the housing authority to claim the vehicle seizure should be blocked on grounds of federal immunity. The agency's chief financial officer acknowledged in a sworn affidavit that none was paid for with federal funds, Goldman wrote in the motion.

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