Mayor Pugh Says She Can’t Fire Housing Commissioner Graziano, But Wants Him Gone

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Mayor Pugh leads her first Board of Estimates meeting. Courtesy Mayor Catherine Pugh/Twitter.
Mayor Pugh leads her first Board of Estimates meeting, Courtesy Mayor Catherine Pugh/Twitter

New Mayor Catherine Pugh has been talking about getting rid of scandal-plagued Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano since she was on the campaign trail. Today, she reiterated her desire to replace him, but said his removal isn’t actually up to her.

In a video posted to Twitter by the Sun’s Yvonne Wenger, a reporter asks Mayor Catherine Pugh, “Did you fire Paul Graziano yet?” Pugh responds, “I’ve made it very clear that Graziano is not the housing commissioner that I want, but explains that he is hired by the City Housing Authority’s board, which the mayor appoints). As a result, the board is in charge of that decision.

“So listen very clearly,” she says, addressing the Housing Authority Board in the video. “Graziano is not my choice to run our housing department.” She adds at the press conference that she is working with her staff to find “the best and the brightest” to fill his spot.

Under Graziano’s leadership, the Housing Department has experienced numerous scandals. The most well-known one was the case involving Housing Authority maintenance staff demanding sexual favors from numerous female public housing residents in exchange for repairs. It was settled out of court for $8 million, though that was before other victims stepped forward. Other scandals of note for the agency included elderly and disabled residents being left without heat or water for days and the department eliminating its inspector general position, which is in charge of investigating employee misconduct.

While Graziano remained in his post under now-former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Pugh has spoken of her intentions to find a new, less scandalous director of the city’s Housing Authority. The only problem is, as she mentioned today, she needs the agency’s board to be on-board.

We’ve reached out to the Housing Authority Board and the Housing Authority’s office for comment on the matter.

The Baltimore Business Journal reports Graziano was in attendance for Pugh’s inauguration yesterday, but wasn’t up for talking to reporters. Maybe he knows he’s on the new mayor’s radar to be replaced.

Ethan McLeod
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