The Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) recently sent a letter to residents explaining the agency’s sexual harassment policy and requesting residents report any instances of the same by housing employees, contractors, and vendors to the police or HABC.
‘Signed’ by Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano, the letter states that, “I am writing to let you know personally that the Housing Authority of Baltimore City . . . prohibits its employees, contractors and vendors from engaging in vulgar, unprofessional or inappropriate conversations and conduct, including sexual harassment. Sexual harassment involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests or demands for sexaul favors and/or verbal or physical conduct and physical contact of any nature.”
Recently, lawyers representing seven women residents of Gilmor Homes, the Sandtown-Winchester housing project where Freddie Gray grew up, filed a lawsuit against HABC, claiming that the women were subjected to demands for sexual favors in exchange for maintenance and repair work required by law.
The two attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of residents, Cary Hansel and Annie Hirsch, released a statement taking Graziano to task for waiting until now to inform residents about the policy and complaint process.
“It is shocking that the Housing Authority ignored the pleas of the women of Gilmor for years, until faced with a lawsuit. We have previously provided sworn affidavits that complaints were made to property manager at Gilmor Homes as early as Spring 2012, again in 2013, and again in 2014. . . . Yet, it took Commissioner Graziano until this week – years after the complaints of sexual abuse by Housing Authority employees arose – to warn residents and seek to investigate. Commissioner Graziano’s letter . . . shows that there was no meaningful investigation before,” read the statement, in part.
Cary and Hirsch have also sent an email communication to Graziano requesting he meet with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to hear their stories directly; tour the residential units of Gilmor Homes; fire the employees named in the lawsuit and alleged to have sexually harassed women residents; and discuss remedies related to the claims in the lawsuit.