ANNAPOLIS, DEC. 2 -- The trial of Arthur G. Strissel Jr., Annapolis public housing director, ended today with city attorneys accusing the controversial official of clear-cut zoning law violations. But Strissel's attorneys suggested the civil suit was politically motivated and based, at best, on "some hypertechnicality."
The city has charged that Strissel built his luxury house in Eastport about four feet from the property line, in violation of city codes requiring a distance of at least six feet.
Circuit Judge Robert H. Heller Jr., who heard the case without a jury, said he will issue his decision in one week.
If Strissel is found in violation, he could be required to remove a two-foot-wide strip of his house, a project he estimated would cost him more than $76,000.
Strissel, who runs the city's 1,130 units of public housing, has been publicly attacked as incompetent and insensitive by Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan, who has so far been unable to obtain enough votes on the Housing Authority's board of directors to have him dismissed.
In addition, both the FBI and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are investigating the authority's financial dealings. Two Baltimore contractors pleaded guilty this year to contract-fixing charges that arose from the investigations.
In the past, Strissel has maintained the building dispute is part of a vendetta conducted by Callahan. Strissel's attorney, James Hulme, noted in closing arguments today that the city had approved Strissel's building application and had approved his house when work was completed in 1984. The complaints arose in "suspicious circumstances" soon after Callahan took office two yeas ago today, he said.
City Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said today that Strissel is the only person the city has taken to court for zoning violations since Callahan came to office. The city would sue others in the same situation, Hodgson said, but so far others have removed their illegal buildings or successfully applied for zoning variations.
Callahan, who did not testify during the trial, insisted today that the case "is no different from any other case of zoning violation. If the individual were a personal friend of mine, we would enforce our laws."