Department of Housing and Community Development Sec. Kenneth C. Holt is apologizing for controversial comments he made Friday about how some mothers may intentionally poison their children to get housing benefits.
The apology, issued by spokeswoman Audra Harrison, comes 24 hours after Holt made the controversial statement during an economic development talk at the Maryland Association of Counties convention in Ocean City.
“The secretary deeply regrets his comments and apologizes to anyone he offended,” Harrison said. “His statements do not reflect administration or departmental policy. Both the administration and department take the issue of lead poisoning very seriously and will always work protect the health and safety of Marylanders.”
- HOLT: MOM’S MAY DELIBERATELY POISON CHILDREN WITH LEAD WEIGHTS
- RUTHERFORD: HOLT “OFF THE RESERVATION
The comments came as Holt was discussing sweeping policy changes to his agency that he said would be part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislative agenda in 2016. One of those proposals included reducing the liability to landlords for lead poisoning incidents. Holt said some property owners had expressed concerns over the current unlimited liability law.
“I heard a story yesterday: If a mother wants to put a lead weight, a fishing weight, in the mouth of their child, and take the child for testing, the lead is going to register off the top of the charts,” Holt told the gathering. “And if that child and mother live in a Maryland residence, that landlord is on the hook to provide housing for that child until the age of 18 with unlimited liability. None of that makes any sense whatsoever. So we’re going to support the Maryland Department of the Environment with trying to pursue some commonsense reorganization of that.”
Holt later told reporters he was not actually aware of any instances in which such a poisoning had occurred.
“It was an anecdotal story that was described to me as something that could possibly happen and provide burden on the landlord,” Holt told reporters. “First of all, it would not be their responsibility. I don’t think I raised it as a real threat. I described it as something that was told to me from a developer that said: ‘This is a theoretical circumstance that could happen to us. Is that fair? Is that right?’ And it’s absolutely not fair or right that they have to assume the burden of something that is maybe a scheme.”
Just hours before Holt issued his statement, Lt. Gov Boyd Rutherford rebuked Holt for the comments following a speech to the same group in Ocean City..
“We don’t know where that came from,” Rutherford told reporters. “I think he was a little off the reservation on that. He’s never spoken to me or the governor or anyone on the senior staff about that so I have no idea where that came from.”
Rutherford said neither he nor the governor were aware of Holt’s proposal and said it would not be part of the 2016 agenda.
“No, that’s ridiculous,” Rutherford said.