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Rutherford: Holt “off the reservation” on lead poisoning comments

Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford publicly rebuked Department of Housing and Community Development Sec. Kenneth C. Holt for statements made a day earlier in which the agency head repeated an anecdote told to him about mothers that may use lead fishing weights to intentionally poison their children to get housing benefits.

“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.”

Holt, speaking to the Maryland Association of Counties summer convention in Ocean City Friday, said he had been told stories about how landlords could be liable for lead poisoning cases resulting from mothers who use lead fishing weights to intentionally poison their children.

“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

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)

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.”.

Rutherford delivered the closing address to the conference on behalf of Hogan who just completed a third round of chemotherapy treatment for an aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The lieutenant governor told reporters that he and Hogan shared concerns about how the public was reacting to the comments.

“Yes,” Rutherford said. “We have concerns about the way we received (the comments).”

Holt made the comments during an talk focused on economic development and said he would seek sweeping changes to his agency during the next legislative session. One of those initiatives would be a combined effort with the Maryland Department of Environment to limit liability for landlords as it relates to lead poisoning.

Holt later told reporters that he had no evidence that such a poisoning had ever taken place but that it was a story told to him by a landlord and meant to illustrate how property owners can unfairly be held liable for actions not related to their properties.

Holt said he plans to deliver the bill to the governor as part of his agency’s legislative requests within the week.

But Rutherford said such efforts to limit liability won’t go forward.

“No, that’s ridiculous,” Rutherford said.

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