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Week in review: 10/26/12

Harborplace changing hands

Harborplace, the city’s signature 32-year-old tourism hub, is being sold to New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition Corp. for an undisclosed price. General Growth Properties, which acquired Harborplace as part of its November 2004 purchase of The Rouse Co., will close the deal next month, according to a memo sent to city officials by Christopher Schardt, senior general manager of Harborplace. Rouse was the original developer of Harborplace. GGP will retain ownership of the Gallery, which sits across Pratt Street, the memo said.

Drug counselor accused of selling fake test results

A former substance-abuse counselor took bribes from drug-treatment program participants who wanted to dodge their urine tests, according to a federal grand jury indictment. Lauren Jeannette Diggs, 50, of Rockville, was also accused of selling false discharge certificates, witness tampering and making false statements to the grand jury. The indictment was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, following Diggs’ arrest. Diggs and an alleged co-conspirator worked at ADR, a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program in Maryland.

Baltimore Co. pension violated age rules

Baltimore County violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act when it required older employees to contribute more than its younger workers into its pension fund before July 1, 2007, even if both sets of workers had the same years of service, a federal judge in Baltimore has ruled. In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg found the county’s disparate contribution rates to be “facially discriminatory” on the basis of age, even though he found no evidence to suggest the county ever intended to treat older workers less favorably than younger ones.

Court’s petition ruling revealed to be narrow

A petition drive to force a vote on Maryland’s congressional redistricting plan succeeded by just a single vote in the state’s highest court. The Court of Appeals had rejected the challenge to the referendum in an order Aug. 17, but did not explain its reasons — or how close the vote was — until this week. Because the petition was available online, thousands of people signed not only the petition, but also the required affidavit of the “circulator.” By a 4-3 vote, the court stated that neither the Maryland Constitution nor the law requires a circulator and a signer to be different people.

Port plans to ask for pricing flexibility

Below-market contracts offered to shipping companies by some East Coast competitors have put a strain on the Port of Baltimore, causing the loss of at least one major client to aggressive pricing elsewhere, so the Maryland Port Administration plans to ask the Board of Public Works next week to allow it to negotiate deeper discounts with shipping companies in order to respond to offers made by those other ports. Mike Miller, the port administration’s director of maritime commercial management, said Baltimore needs to be able to offer discounts to potential customers immediately if accounts are threatened.

Bankruptcy judge closes fake law firm operation

A high-school graduate who operated a fake law firm in Baltimore must cease doing business and pay $261,000 for representing clients in bankruptcy cases. Holding himself out as “A. Michael Scalia,” Michael A. Mancini ran Scalia & Seidel LLC, decking it out to look like a law firm and filing court documents on behalf of at least 54 clients over the course of four months this year, according to the opinion by Judge David E. Rice in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Baltimore.

Bayside Coal Pier, closed since Aug., now open

A Curtis Bay coal pier damaged and closed after a ship struck it in August has reopened, CSX Transportation Inc. announced. The Bayside Coal Pier, which handles large ships with 135,000-ton capacity, had been closed since one such vessel failed to make a turn on Aug. 25 and struck the pier. Since then, CSX has been moving coal through its B&O Railroad Pier, which is shallower than the Bayside pier, preventing larger ships from loading there.