Holt apologizes for lead paint comments

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.

Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt speaks Friday at the Maryland Association of Counties Convention in Ocean City. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Kenneth C. Holt speaks Friday at the Maryland Association of Counties Convention in Ocean City. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

“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.”


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.



  1. I am grateful for Secretary Holt’s apology. This entire controversy,whether originating from an honest belief by a landlord, or the Secretary’s misunderstanding of what was said, underscores that the real danger is the lack of information of what the law really is regarding a landlord’s lead paint obligations. This episode evidences the critical need for more education and understanding about tenant/landlord laws.
    Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., founded in 1959, promotes justice in housing for all people in the State of Maryland through fair housing and tenant-landlord programs and public information activities. BNI provides information and guidance, impartially and free of charge, to both landlords and tenants, concerning their respective rights and responsibilities. A mere $40.00 investment in BNI’s acclaimed Guide to Local, State, and Federal Laws Governing Tenant-Landlord Relations, provides information on tenant/landlord law and is often relied upon by judges, landlords, property managers and tenants. BNI also offers workshops and trainings and operates a Hotline, providing trained counselors who respond to dozens of inquiries daily from both tenants and landlords. Currently limited to 9:00am-5:00 pm, Monday-Friday, with additional funding, BNI seeks to include evening and weekend counselors to meet the needs of those whose schedules prevent calling during the regular business day.This hotline responds to thousands of inquiries annually. Counselors assist with requests for information regarding evictions, maintenance issues, security deposits, proper notice to vacate, and many other areas, including lead paint.
    In addition, BNI fights housing discrimination, supports affordable, diverse communities, works to improve tenant-landlord relations, provides community education and outreach, and advocates for housing justice throughout Maryland. We appreciate the support we currently receive from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and would welcome the opportunity to share our expertise with Secretary Holt, the Governor’s Office, and others seeking a better understanding of housing laws.
    Robert J. Strupp
    Executive Director
    Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc,
    2530 N. Charles Street, Suite 200
    Baltimore, MD 21218

    No attorney-client relationship is formed by the content of this email or use thereof. This email may contain information relating to the laws of the United States. Such information is not legal advice, but provided as education on housing and landlord-tenant issues. Seek legal advice from an attorney before using or relying upon any information provided in this email. This email transmission and any documents, files, or previous email messages attached to it, may contain confidential information, trade secret information, or information that is legally privileged. If you are not the intended recipient or a person responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any disclosure, copying, distribution, or use of any of the information contained in or attached to this message is STRICTLY PROHIBITED. If you have received this transmission in error, please immediately notify me by reply email and destroy the original transmission and its attachments.

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  2. the comments were not “controversial”, they were wrong. Wrong based on the science. Wrong based on the law. I hope the secretary understands that.

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