Two Brentwood residents are claiming rules for the town’s home energy-efficiency program were broken when a former town councilwoman received nearly triple the grant amount that other residents received for home improvements.
Anne Warden and Dolores Pomerleau allege in a Prince George’s County Circuit Court lawsuit that $27,000 from Brentwood’s Green Home Initiative was approved for energy renovations made to the home of Marlene Robinson, who served on the Town Council from May 2005 to May 2011.
The program was set up to help low- and moderate-income homeowners cut down on energy costs. According to the initiative application, homeowners are eligible for “up to $10,000.”
“I think it is just not fair that a lot is going to one person,” Warden said.
The women — both of whom applied for the program and said they received $10,000 each in renovations — initially filed a complaint in October against Brentwood Mayor Roger E. Rudder and the Town Council; the complaint was updated Jan. 4 to add Robinson as a defendant, because the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Christopher Gowen, said they decided Robinson should have known her participation in the process was improper.
Gowen said he hopes to recover for the program any money that has been given to Robinson or town-selected contractor, Riverdale-based K&A Enterprises Inc., who Gowen said performed work on Robinson’s home. K&A Enterprises was one of several contractors tapped by the town to perform work on residents’ homes. The complaint does not ask for any damages to be awarded to the plaintiffs.
A person who answered the phone at K&A Enterprises declined to comment.
Robinson confirmed that energy-efficiency upgrades were performed on her home by K&A Enterprises, but said town officials negotiated the terms of the work without her involvement. She questioned the $27,000 work estimate, but declined to comment further.
Rudder declined to comment on the case, Robinson’s claim that she wasn’t involved in negotiations or the guidelines for the energy grants program. He said most of the $300,000 allotted for the program has been spent. Town Clerk Melora Anderson referred questions about the grants to Rudder.
The plaintiffs also allege that the grant for Robinson’s home violates the town charter’s conflict-of-interest guidelines, which state that town officials cannot participate in decisions and approvals in which they have a financial interest. The complaint states that the rule applies to future financial interests as well. The council received the grant in 2010, and in February 2011 K&A Enterprises Inc. was hired, among other contractors, to perform renovation services on homes while Robinson was still a council member.
In a response to the complaint filed in November, Town Attorney Jason DeLoach said town officials approved paying $27,000 for the work done to Robinson’s home and confirmed that no other resident received more than $10,000 from the program. However, DeLoach denied in the response that the application for the program stated that no resident could receive more than $10,000, and denied that officials violated the town charter or Maryland’s conflict-of-interest law. No additional details were provided in the response, and DeLoach did not return calls for comment.
The town received the money for the program through an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from Prince George’s County, which was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. According to the Memorandum of Understanding for the grant, at least 25 Brentwood households were to be selected for the grants, and the rest of money was to be used for the administration of the program.
Carol Terry, public information officer for the county’s Department of Environmental Resources, which issued the grant and oversaw the program, declined to comment due to the litigation.
The Gazette filed a Maryland Public Information Act Request on Nov. 7 requesting details regarding program spending, but the information has not been provided. Rudder wrote in a Dec. 18 email to The Gazette that the town is understaffed because it has no town administrator and only a part-time treasurer, causing a delay in the town’s response.
A pre-trial conference has been scheduled for April 23.