It was a slip of the pen, an “oversight,” that caused her to claim a Baltimore County property as her primary residence in a 2006 document, claimed City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway this week. “In this case Belinda Conaway simply signed a document by mistake, and she’s returning any of the tax credits gained from that mistake and she’s working to correct it,” Conaway’s lawyer, Thomas Maronick Jr. told the AFRO.

Still, “it was clearly her signature,” Maronick confirmed following a review of the document, a concession that led the councilwoman on Aug. 1 to drop a $21 million defamation lawsuit against Examiner blogger Adam Meister. Meister used a copy of the document – an affidavit – as the basis to challenge Conaway’s city residency in a series of stories in his column earlier this year.

In a deed dated June 21, 2006, Conaway amended ownership of a Randallstown home she purchased in 1997, adding her husband and her married name, Belinda Washington. She also signed an affidavit that day, certifying the home as her principal residence.

“This was a frivolous lawsuit,” Meister said in an e-mail. “I was never worried about the outcome. I knew I was right. My original stories linked to official documents that Belinda Conaway signed … The tax records showed she received the homestead property tax credit in Randallstown. I was shocked that she filed the lawsuit. I knew in the long run she would end up humbled and humiliated.”

Still, Conaway – through her lawyer – insists she lives at 3210 Liberty Heights Ave., a 2.5-story brick home located at the far edge of her district. According to the Maryland Elections Center, she, her brother State Del. Frank M. Conaway Jr. and her father, Clerk of the Court Frank M. Conaway Sr., list that same Ashburton address as their primary residence. State records show Conaway Sr. owns the property.

Maronick, Conaway’s lawyer, said of the lawmaker’s residency, “She lives in Baltimore City and proudly serves in Baltimore City.”

Meister continues to question that claim, however, and said he believes that a person with a primary residence in another jurisdiction should not be allowed to hold office in Baltimore. As such, the writer added, in the coming elections voters should throw their support behind Conaway’s rival, Nick Mosby, who “really lives in Reservoir Hill” and “is an honest man.”

Under city charter rules, city councilpersons are mandated to reside within the district they represent. Based on that law, Meister said, Conaway’s peers on the City Council should “punish” the District 7 lawmaker. “There should be some sort of investigation into all of this. Conaway is in charge of the city council Budget and Appropriations committee, at the very least she should be stripped of this leadership role,” he said.

“This has been a truly embarrassing controversy and any leader with honor would resign after being caught in such a scandal.”

Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO