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In the Media: No Fed Funding for Transportation Projects; Housing Workers Charged with Harassment

Baltimore City skyline.
Phil Gold

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: No federal funding for two Baltimore transportation projects

"Baltimore came up empty-handed Wednesday when the federal government turned down Maryland's request for $231 million to fund two large transportation projects.

"The state had been seeking $76.1 million in federal assistance for an Interstate 95 interchange project to spur redevelopment at the 160-acre Port Covington site in South Baltimore where Sagamore Development wants to build a mixed-use project with a new Under Armour corporate campus, housing, retail and more.

"The state also came up short on its bid for $155 million to help alleviate the freight rail bottleneck caused by the obsolete design of the Howard Street Tunnel, which has been a drag on the port of Baltimore for decades.

"Gov. Larry Hogan's office released a statement deploring the U.S. Department of Transportation's decision, calling it 'a disappointing outcome.'

"'This is the second time in two years that the Obama administration has overlooked Baltimore by withholding federal assistance that could make a real difference to the future of the city,' said Hogan spokesman Matthew A. Clark.

"The first time was when the administration turned down Maryland's request for aid in the aftermath of Baltimore's riots last year, he said.

"The twin projects were competing against more than 200 applicants from around the country for $800 million available this year under the federal government's FASTLANE program. Only 18 projects were selected.

"Clark said that the Republican Hogan administration would seek FASTLANE funding again next year.

"Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, hinted that the failure to win a grant might be tied to Hogan's decision last year to cancel a $2.9 billion light rail project in Baltimore that had received a preliminary green light from the federal government.

"'I hope that when Governor Hogan walked away from $900 million in federal funding for the Red Line — more than all of this year's FASTLANE grants combined — he didn't do irreparable damage to Maryland's ability to compete for discretionary federal transportation awards in the future,' Cummings said in a statement."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Former Baltimore housing handymen charged with misconduct, sexual contact

"Two former workers at public housing units have been charged with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offense, prosecutors said, as the Housing Authority of Baltimore City continues to grapple with claims that some maintenance staff demanded sexual favors for repairs.

"Charles T. Coleman, 48, and Doug Hussy, 61, also were charged last week with harassment and misconduct in office. Fourth-degree sexual offense is not considered violent, but includes sexual contact without consent.

"A spokeswoman for the housing authority declined to comment, saying officials had not yet reviewed the charges.

"Coleman did not respond to a message Wednesday night. But Hussy said he was unaware of the charges.

"'They got it wrong,' he said. 'I never did anything to nobody.'

"The men are scheduled for arraignment on the charges on Aug. 19.

"In September, the housing authority reached a settlement worth up to $8 million in a class-action suit brought by a group of women tenants. The women said they were sexually abused or harassed by members of the maintenance staff while living in Baltimore's public housing complexes.

"When the women did not comply with the demands, they said, they were exposed to unsafe living conditions, such as heat not being repaired.

"As a result of the women's suit, the housing authority pledged to make sweeping changes, including creating 50 more maintenance positions and developing a plan to improve the housing complexes.

"Coleman and another worker, Michael Robinson, responded to the lawsuit with a defamation case, claiming they were wrongly fired based on false allegations the 17 women made for financial gain. They sought $6 million for compensatory damages and $30 million from each of the defendants for punitive damages. But a Baltimore circuit judge dismissed their defamation case in May."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Trial set to open for Lt. Brian Rice, the fourth officer charged in Freddie Gray case

"The trial of Baltimore Police Lt. Brian Rice is scheduled to get under way Thursday morning in a downtown courthouse.

"He is the highest ranking of the six police officers charged in the April 2015 arrest and death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who suffered a severe injury in the back of a police van and died a week later.

"On Tuesday, during a pretrial hearing, Rice elected for a bench trial, leaving his legal fate in the hands of a judge rather than a jury of city residents.

"Rice, 42, was hired by the Baltimore Police Department in 1997 and promoted to lieutenant in 2011. His annual salary in 2015 was about $98,000, according to a city employee database.

"Rice was on bicycle patrol at the Gilmor Homes complex in West Baltimore on April 12, 2015, when Gray fled. Rice called out for other officers to pursue him.

"Rice has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, two counts of misconduct in office and reckless endangerment. He is free on $350,000 bail.

"The most serious charges against Rice stem from failing to secure Gray with a seat belt when he helped load Gray, who was shackled, into an arrest van. Other charges relate to his role in Gray's initial arrest.

"At a pretrial hearing Tuesday, prosecutors were dealt a blow when Williams ruled they could not present evidence of Rice’s training since becoming an officer. The judge said prosecutors violated discovery rules when — just days ago — they turned over to the defense 4,000 pages of documents related to Rice’s training.

"Officers' training has been a key component of the Baltimore state's attorney's office's case against the officers. Prosecutors allege that the officers knowingly acted against Police Department guidelines in their arrest and transport of Gray.

"Following the Rice trial, three more Baltimore police officers charged in Gray's arrest and death are set to go on trial by October. Rice’s trial is to be followed by those of Officer Garrett Miller (July 27), Porter (Sept. 6) and Sgt. Alicia White (Oct. 13). All the officers have pleaded not guilty."

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