Former worker of embattled property company: 'They're slumlords. I use that with a lot of emphasis'

Repairs that couldn’t be completed. Materials that were never ordered. Living conditions that were never improved. A former employee of the property management company that looks after the embattled Park Place apartment complex alleges his former employer consistently placed profits over tenants' safety and quality of life.

The former-employee-turned-whistleblower wanted to withhold his name fearing that it might affect future employment elsewhere.

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Later this month, inspectors from the City of Cleveland’s Department of Building and Housing in addition to the county health department will converge upon Park Place apartments after News 5 profiled deplorable and abhorrent living conditions. The issues included persistent water leaks, which lead to mold and mushrooms growing inside one unit, in addition to faulty plumbing fixtures and electrical outlets.

The former employee said issues like that were the norm at Park Place.

“My experience was that the management didn’t want to spend any money… to take care of problems that they had here,” the former employee said. “Everything I tried to order I had to get approval from them. A lot of times – I’d say 85 to 90 percent of the time – [management] would knock the [work order] down. They wouldn’t order it. How could you get anything done that way?”

He couldn’t, the former employee said. Instead, he was tasked with band-aid fixes like spraying foam in the cabinets that had become a nesting ground for rodents. The cabinets would also be re-painted but never replaced, the former employee said.

There were also other catastrophic problems: walls and ceilings that were collapsing, leaking roofs, doors that wouldn’t shut, doors that wouldn’t lock and damaged, water-logged subfloors. The former employee said the problems at Park Place apartments paled in comparison to the problems at some of the management company’s other properties.

According to property records, Detroit-based American Community Developers owns Park Place, Boardwalk Apartments and Glenville Apartments. The latter two developments are a series of buildings that stretch like tentacles across the city’s east side. Between the three developments, there are nearly 300 living units, most of whom are occupied by people receiving federally-subsidized rent.

All three developments are managed by Independent Management Services (IMS), which is also based out of Michigan. The former employee said IMS’ top managers refused to heed his concerns about the living conditions at the properties. Both IMS and American Community Developers have not responded to requests for comment.

One property on E 91st is especially bad, the former employee said.

“That one I can actually say is like a third-world country. The ceiling is collapsing and caving in. The doors, you can’t keep anybody out,” the former employee said. “There are rodents constantly. Management didn’t want to back me in my jobs as far as making things right for the residents. They didn’t want to buy anything. Some of the contractors, they didn’t want to pay them.”

Making the job more difficult is the fact that the maintenance teams responsible for fixing issues at the numerous, decades-old buildings was minuscule at best, the former employee said. Between all three developments, which have nearly 300 living units, there were less than 10 maintenance workers, the former employee said.

In the end, the former employee’s frustrations and uneasiness forced him to quit.

“It’s the reason I had to leave,” the former employee said. “Sometimes money doesn’t mean anything to me when I see the residents, especially the small children, living in that filth and with rodents living with them like they’re brothers and sisters. I couldn’t do that. [Management] didn’t want to spend any money. Why would they have to spend money when they get government subsidies?”

Many if not most of the tenants at the three developments receive some form of government assistance that helps cover monthly rent payments. Because of that, each development is subjected to federal inspections by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to publicly available inspection data, Park Place’s most recent inspection occurred in December 2016. The complex earned a score of 62 – just barely above the passing score of 60. Boardwalk’s most recent inspection occurred in December 2017 in which it received a score of 71.

Glenville Apartments earned an inspection score of 66 when it was last inspected in January 2018.

The former employee believes the three developments need to be completely gutted. However, he’s not confident repairs will be made unless the city, state or federal government compel them to.

“To me, they’re stealing money. They’re stealing money from these people,” the former employee said. “That’s taxpayer’s money too, you know?”

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