FOX 8 Defenders: Willows management attempts to end lease of family who spoke to FOX 8
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Local managers at The Willows apartment complex are changing their tune after posting a lease termination on the door of a young mother who complained to FOX 8 about deplorable living conditions. She believes it was retaliation for speaking with us.
For Cierra Dobard, the last 24 hours have been a roller coaster of emotions.
“We’re just struggling to figure out where to go,” Dobard said.
On Thursday, management placed a notice on her door, saying they will terminate her lease in two months.
“I mean I don’t understand why they’re coming after us,” Dobard stated.
Dobard first spoke to FOX 8 in May, complaining about the nightly crime here and what she described as mold in her home and caving walls. She’s reached out to the city and code enforcement numerous times. She’s even approached the NOPD about getting more patrols here to keep residents safe.
Yet this letter posted on her door made it clear, management wanted her out. On Friday, the Fox 8 Defenders showed up at The Willows to get some answers. Also there was City Council President Helena Moreno.
“I told them I said the letter she had received looked like payback,” Moreno said.
Payback, Dobard says, for speaking to us and bringing the issues here public.
“I’m just trying to change things around and trying to make a difference,” Dobard explained.
An attorney representing the owner of The Willows, the religious non-profit Global Ministries Foundation, wouldn’t speak to us on camera nor would the property managers. But after Moreno intervened and spoke to them privately, Dobard was told she could stay.
“The upper management folks said the lower management made a mistake in sending out this letter and that Cierra and her family would not be forced out,” Moreno said.
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Code enforcement inspectors also showed up Friday. The department is still receiving complaints from other tenants.
Winnie Boyd invited us into her apartment to see what she deals with but when we tried to go inside, we were met by the property owner’s attorney, Cole Callihan, from Adams and Reese law firm. He tried to force us off the property, but once inside, Boyd showed us the ceiling, which leaks water at times, and a leaking A.C. unit, which she says was infested with maggots.
“All under the wall Meg, all going round the sides, all on that side of the wall. That’s why I moved all my shoes and all that. They were pink looking, it was horrible, I couldn’t cook or do anything. Sick to our stomach,” Boyd explains.
The CEO of Global Ministries is Richard Hamlet, an ordained minister. The nonprofit is based out of Tennessee and pays no property tax for this complex, something Moreno is trying to change.
In the meantime, residents at The Willows feel these problems would have never seen the light of day without our intervention and the help of Moreno.
“If the owner is owning this, he needs to have his behind come from Tennessee or wherever he’s coming from and come see his property,” Boyd said.
Some believe Hamlet isn’t exactly practicing what he preaches.
“Yeah. Super Christian right? Yeah to put residents in these types of conditions,” Moreno stated.
Through tears, Dobard said, “This is a shame. This is a disgrace. If you represent the Lord, you shouldn’t represent it like that. That’s not right. That’s not right.”
Friday afternoon we received a letter that Hamlet wrote to his regional property manager stating that the man who drafted the lease termination notice to Dobard will be admonished.
Hamlet says the property manager intended to give Dobard an option to not renew her lease if she didn’t want to live there, but the language he used in the letter wasn’t acceptable.
For now, Dobard and her family will remain at The Willows.
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