There were no fire code violations at a farmhouse in Boyds owned by Montgomery County zoning appeals board member Harry Leet when a blaze there last month killed six tenants, the Montgomery County fire marshal has determined.
In a one-paragraph memo to Montgomery County Executive Charles M. Gilchrist, Fire Marshal John Best cleared Leet of direct responsibility for the fire. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
The fire marshal's memo did not address the housing code violations that had been brought against Leet since 1981.
The property, on Slidell Road, was condemned a month before the fire, but there were no allegations that fire code violations existed. The county has cited Leet for allowing tenants to live in a condemned dwelling.
Among the violations cited was the lack of a heating system. Leet's tenants had installed a wood-burning stove, which fire officials are examining as a possible cause of the fire. Some officials believe it may have been installed after the property was condemned.
The wooden farmhouse was one of seven Leet rental properties cited by the county for housing code violations. Leet, who has been criticized by housing officials for failing to make improvements to the properties, is seeking reappointment to the zoning appeals board.
Fire Marshal Best said in his memo that his investigation of the Boyds fire shows that Leet "was not in violation of the Montgomery County fire safety code or the Maryland state fire prevention code."
Best could not be reached yesterday for elaboration on the memo.
County Council member Rose Crenca said yesterday that she believes the council will need more information about the fire and conditions at Leet's other properties before a decision can be made on whether to reappoint him.
"The council is going to have to come to grips with the issue now that we have the report from the fire marshal," said Crenca.
"We have to look at more than just what the fire marshal has to say," she said. "There's an attitude, frame of mind and public appearance that must be considered."
Crenca said she has heard from a number of constituents who question Leet's judgment and respect for the law and have urged that he not be reappointed.
Council member Neal Potter said the council will have to decide whether Leet can remain effective as an appeals board member in light of the disclosures about the condition of his properties.
"It obviously creates a public relations problem," said Potter.
Leet did not return phone calls yesterday about the fire marshal's memo.