At least seven women living in a Baltimore housing project were forced to trade sexual favors in exchange for basic home repairs from maintenance workers, according to a lawsuit filed this week in the Baltimore Federal Court.
Courthouse News Service reports that the 34-page complaint detailed the sex acts allegedly demanded by Gilmor Homes maintenance supervisor Clinton Coleman and his employees before simple repairs for electrical problems, gas leaks, and pest infestations would be made.
“These Housing Authority employees routinely harass and abuse the vulnerable women in public housing,” the suit alleges. “These defendants are subjecting the tenants to life-threatening living conditions, including but not limited to: mold, lack of heat, rodent and insect infestations and risk of electrocution. These victims are too poor to move and relocate their families.”
One woman alleged disability discrimination. The 54-year-old woman needs a cane to walk, but said she can’t get the maintenance crew to install a ramp in her home or handholds in her bathroom.
The woman said that when she moved into the complex last year, a maintenance worker told her he wouldn’t make repairs to her unit unless he gave her “some booty.”
About six months ago, she said, the same worker came to her house after a male visitor left and told her, “I see your boyfriend just left, can I get a turn?”
“I rejected his advances and he left without doing any of the long-outstanding work in my home,” the woman wrote in an affidavit.
Another woman, a 33-year-old single mother, said she succumbed to Coleman’s pressure and performed oral sex and later intercourse. She said in an affidavit that Coleman exposed himself to her in his office. She said she gave in to his demands because she was “shocked, young, scared, fleeing an abusive relationship and worried about the health and safety of my daughter.”
The suit claims that Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano was made aware of allegations but ignored them. Graziano has since called the allegations “extremely disturbing,” according to Tania Baker, a spokeswoman for Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), who added that organization is conducting an internal investigation into the alleged crimes and “considers any employee actions that would subject its residents to sexual abuse or sexual harassment to be reprehensible.”
The lawsuit, which was filed Monday, is seeking $10 million in damages.