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Baltimore Women in Public Housing Forced to Trade Sex for Building Repairs

Twenty women walked away with a settlement of $8 million from the Housing Authority of Baltimore City after filing a lawsuit alleging that maintenance workers solicited sexual favors in exchange for repairs.

The sex-for-repairs scandal has led to the firing of several Housing Authority employees, and calls for the resignation of the city’s public housing commissioner, Paul T. Graziano. According to the lawsuit, “Housing Authority employees routinely harass and abuse the vulnerable women in public housing. By refusing to perform repairs without sexual qui pro quo, these defendants are subjecting the tenants to life-threatening living conditions.”

Maintenance supervisor Clinton Coleman was fired in October of 2015 after years of routinely harassing and assaulting scores of female residents. Court documents paint a grim portrait of Coleman and his underling, Michael Robertson.  One victim recalled that before Coleman would fix anything in her unit, “he demanded that I send him pictures of me in my underwear.”

Coleman and other maintenance workers retaliated against female residents who refused their sexual advancements by ignoring work requests and in one case even shutting off the heating to a unit for over two years.

The housing authority employees preyed on female resident’s vulnerabilities as young, poor mothers who face homelessness as their sole alternative to public housing. One woman described her fraught relationship with Coleman, “he exercises significant control over the community. In addition to withholding repairs and making physical threats, his crews can make complaints that may result in residents losing their homes. I have no place to go and my daughter and I would be homeless if this happened.”

A criminal investigation is underway against the housing authority employees involved but no charges have been filed yet.

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