Hogan Stands By Housing Secretary; Expresses Disappointment In Lead Paint Remarks

Governor Larry Hogan has expressed his disappointment with remarks made last week by Housing and Community Development Secretary Ken Holt regarding lead poisoning victims.  

Hogan's response came as 30 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Holt today, asking for the Republican official to resign.

Holt had not responded to the letter all day, but late this afternoon, department spokeswoman Audra Harrison issued a statement confirming Holt met with the governor.

"The secretary met with the governor earlier today at which time the governor expressed his disappointment with the secretary's comments," Harrison said.

" Secretary Holt is committed to working with advocates, legislators, and families to  move forward, rebuild trust, and strengthen the already-strong record DHCD has on this important issue."

A spokesman for Hogan  says the governor is confident his top housing secretary can still do his job.

Press Secretary Erin Montgomery said Hogan did not ask for Holt's resignation.

Doug Mayer, another Hogan spokesman, confirmed the meeting between Hogan and Holt. 

Mayer says the Republican governor expressed disappointment with comments Holt made Friday.

Mayer says Hogan has directed Holt to continue reaching out to advocates and lawmakers to reassure them of his commitment to the health of state residents.

"Over the past 7 months, Secretary Holt has proven himself to be a passionate and competent public servant and the governor remains confident that he can continue to effectively lead this department and serve the people of our state,” Mayer said.

Last Friday, Holt told the Maryland Association of Counties Summer Conference in Ocean City that he has heard  that parents would deliberately poison their children with lead, in order to force landlords into settlements in lead paint lawsuits and to give them free housing. Holt said a mother could put a lead fishing weight in a child's mouth before testing the child for lead poisoning to force a landlord to provide housing until the child is 18. 

Holt's original comments came  in a speech, in which he promised he would ask the legislature to pass a bill limiting a landlord's liability in lead poisoning cases.  

In their letter, the Democrats wrote, "these remarks are incredibly offensive and insensitive to the plight of mothers of children with lead poisoning in our State – to say nothing of Marylanders in need of safe, affordable shelter. Furthermore, your remarks betray a shocking and complete lack of understanding of Maryland law as it relates to a landlord’s responsibility to provide rental property free of lead."

"For these reasons, we, the undersigned, call on you to tender your resignation as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development," the lawmakers added.

The letter is signed by 30 Democrats, mostly from Baltimore City, Montgomery, Prince George's Counties, however, two delegates representing parts of Baltimore and Howard Counties signed the letter.  They are Delegates Clarence Lam and Eric Ebersole. Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, who represents another part of Howard County, also signed the letter. Baltimore City Delegates Antonio Hayes, Jill Carter, Sandy Rosenberg, Mary Washington, Charles Sydnor, Cheryl Glenn, Cory McCray, Luke Clippinger and Brooke Lierman, all signed the letter.    

Delegates Lam and McCray talked about the letter during an appearance today on the C-4 Show on WBAL NewsRadio 1090

On Saturday, through a spokeswoman, Holt apologized for his earlier remarks.

By Saturday afternoon, Holt's press secretary Audra Harrison issued the following statement:

"The secretary deeply regrets his comments and apologizes to anyone he offended. His statements do not reflect administration or departmental policy. Both the administration and department take the issue of lead poisoning very seriously and will always work protect the health and safety of Marylanders."

The apology was issued after Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford told reporters that Hold was was "off the reservation" when he spoke of trying to limit liability of landlords in lead paint cases. 

Rutherford spoke a day after Community and Development Secretary Kenneth Holt told an audience at a gathering of county leaders that a mother could put a lead fishing weight in a child's mouth and then get the child tested. Holt said a landlord would then be liable for providing the child housing until age 18.

Holt told The Baltimore Sun that he has no evidence of that happening. He called it "an anecdotal story" he used to illustrate his argument that the liability of landlords in lead paint cases should be limited.

Holt's original remarks on Friday were recorded by Bryan Sears of the Daily Record.

Original Article