BALTIMORE - They painted murals on blighted properties in Baltimore, using QR codes to call out the owners. And now one of the people involved in the Wall Hunters: Slumlord Project is being sued.
Court records filed in early December show Carol Ott is being sued by two trusts which claim she launched the project, identified properties and engaged graffiti artists who would vandalize the properties. Ott denies the claims, telling ABC2 she simply provided background information on properties she was provided and did not direct anyone to take action.
That project, which ABC2 profiled in July , featured street art murals placed on more than a dozen buildings throughout the city. Those murals included QR codes listing the owner and other information.
The lawsuits, filed on behalf of the NB2 and SS3 business trusts, are related to murals placed at 4727 Old York Road and 539 North Longwood Street in the city. Each claims $2,500 in damages, providing quotes for pricing on what it would take to paint the properties.
The Old York Road property's QR code says it is owned by NB2 and lists it as a "Stanley Rochkind controlled entity". Brian Spern, the attorney who represents NB2 and SS3 in both lawsuits, tells ABC2 Stanley Rochkind has no ownership or interest in NB2. A state "certificate of trust" for NB2 filed in 2007 which is posted on the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation website lists Rochkind as the client. Spern would not address that issue, saying he was not aware of that paperwork so he could not comment. He would not provide specifics on which individuals are involved in NB2.
But Spern would address the lawsuits, saying, "An individual is not allowed to vandalize someone else's property. When someone wantonly destroys property, they will be pursued under the law."
Ott, who created the Slumlord Watch blog, says she has not been served with court papers. She tells ABC2 the project was something she was involved in personally as a private citizen and was independent of her job.
"Frankly. I'm shocked at these baseless allegations made by Rochkind through his tax attorney. They're simply untrue. I did not direct this project nor did I create any of the artwork," Ott said, "My role was limited as not to take credit away from the talented artists who participated. Clearly this is a fight Rochkind cannot win."
ABC2 Investigators contacted the contractor listed in the lawsuit to ask about the estimate provided in the record. Although Tom the Master Painting and Home Improvement, LLC lists an active MHIC number on its estimate, no company under that number or name was found during a search of the state's database. A spokeswoman for the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation confirms the owner of that company, Tom Avens, is an unlicensed contractor.
A search of the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation database lists the status of Tom The Master Painting, LLC as forfeited for failure to file property return for 2008.
The company did not return a call for comment. ABC2 contacted Spern to ask why the trusts used an unlicensed contractor for its estimate. Spern told us, "No comment".