Officials sue developer for defamation in "Muslim" housing case

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and other top officials are suing the builder of a Joppatowne housing development, alleging he defamed them by accusing them of anti-Muslim discrimination.

The complaint is part of a dispute over a townhouse community being built on Trails Way along the Gunpowder River. Many of the prospective buyers are expected to be members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.

Last month, builder Gemcraft Homes and OT LLC, a company that owns the lots on Trails Way, filed a federal lawsuit against county leaders and two state lawmakers, alleging the county has illegally blocked progress on the development by refusing to issue permits because there is anti-Muslim sentiment in the community.

Now Glassman and other county officials claim Bill Luther, the CEO of Gemcraft and managing member of OT LLC, knowingly made false statements to the media claiming they are biased against Muslims.

Glassman and three others who were named defendants in the federal lawsuit — Billy Boniface, the county’s director of administration; Melissa Lambert, the county attorney; and Joseph J. Siemek, the county’s public works director — filed the complaint in U.S. District Court. They cite recent comments Luther made to the Washington Post and on The C4 Show on WBAL radio.

County spokeswoman Cindy Mumby said officials would not comment beyond their court filings.

Luther said in a statement he was exercising his freedom of speech.

“In this country, every person has the right to express his or her opinions in response to government action,” Luther said. “I will not be intimidated by the defamation claim. The county should abandon these kinds of tactics and allow the innocent homebuyers to move into their homes.”

A spokesman for Luther said he wasn’t available for an interview.

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