ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan met with his top housing official Monday to express disappointment in the secretary’s comments about landlord liability in lead paint cases, a spokesman said, but the official will remain on the job after 30 lawmakers called for his resignation.
The Republican governor voiced confidence in Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth Holt, saying he can effectively run the department. More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers called for his resignation after Holt made a comment about lead paint cases while speaking at a statewide conference of local officials on Friday.
Holt said a mother could misrepresent a child’s lead exposure by putting a lead fishing weight in a child’s mouth before the child is tested for lead poisoning, forcing a landlord to provide housing until the child is 18.
Doug Mayer, the governor’s spokesman, said Hogan had a lengthy and direct conversation Holt on Monday.
“The governor expressed his disappointment and directed the Secretary to continue reaching out to advocates, legislators, and the community as a whole to reassure them of his commitment to the safety and health of all Marylanders,” Mayer said.
The call for Holt’s resignation came in a letter signed by 30 Democratic members of the Maryland House of Delegates, mostly from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the city of Baltimore.
After Holt made the comments at the Maryland Association of Counties, he told The Baltimore Sun he was using an “anecdotal story” that had been described to him to illustrate that landlord liability in lead paint cases should be limited.
The lawmakers calling for his resignation wrote that the remarks were “incredibly offensive and insensitive to the plight of mothers of children with lead poisoning in our state.”
“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,” the letter said, adding that Maryland law only requires the landlord provide safe housing while lead abatement is performed at the original housing site.
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford told reporters Saturday after addressing the conference of local officials in Ocean City, Maryland, that Holt had never spoken to senior officials about trying to limit landlord liability, and there are no administration plans to do that.
Holt apologized for the comments through a spokeswoman.
“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,” said department spokeswoman Audra Harrison on Monday.
(Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)