11.30.2009 0

Valerie Jarrett and Cecil Butler: Partners in Slime

  • On: 12/09/2009 10:11:36
  • In: Corruption
  • Cecil Butler started managing the Lawndale Restoration, a low-income community in 1974. In 1995, Cecil Butler received a $51 million loan, backed by the state, to renovate Lawndale Restoration. In 1999, Valerie Jarrett’s Habitat formed an LLC with Butler’s Boulevard Management. In 2000, Cecil Butler hired the Habitat Company to manage Lawndale Restoration.

    According to ACORN, problems at the property included “cracked masonry, defective porches, rodent infestation, leaks, broken doors, missing locks, and standing water.” HUD estimated that repair costs for the nearly 1,000 salvageable units to be $44.9 million, or about $45,000 per unit.

    In 2005, Lawndale restoration tenants marched against Cecil Butler demanding the removal of the slumlord.

    “Cecil Butler has got to go, we don’t want to see him no mo’!” shouted Anna Morrison a 30-year tenant of the Lawndale Restoration Apartments.

    Morrison was one of 100 tenants and members of the Lawndale Neighborhood Organization that Jan. 31 paid a visit to Joseph Galvan, regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They demanded that HUD immediately take over as property manager of 100 buildings in the Lawndale community.

    HUD has told tenants foreclosure proceedings against Butler have started, but his management company, Habitat Boulevard, is still responsible and receiving payments for taking care of the buildings.

    . . .

    “I have been living in these buildings for over 20 years and they have never done a good job of keeping up the buildings or responding to tenants requests for service,” said Satria Martin, at a recent meeting of the west side tenants.

    Though tenants are happy HUD has begun foreclosure proceedings, they were shocked to learn Butler and Habitat are still being kept as the management company. Butler, who hasn’t paid his $400,000 mortgage in five months, was instructed by HUD to use the money to keep up the properties. Tenants have seen no evidence of improvements. With the buildings already in foreclosure, tenants fear Habitat will scrimp on already poor service.

    “They never did anything to begin with so you can’t expect them to spend more money now that they know the buildings are in foreclosure,” said Rosalyn McComb, a 10-year tenant of the properties.

    The mortgage for the properties is insured by HUD, thus Butler’s company will not be required to pay the note. Tenants are asking HUD to take over as “mortgagee in possession” that would make HUD responsible for bringing in a new management company to maintain the buildings. “In addition to not getting things fixed, I have to sweep and mop the hallway and the staff constantly treats the tenants with no respect,” said McComb.

    . . .

    Sparked by tenant complaints of problems throughout his buildings the city Department of Buildings inspected all of Butler’s properties finding a huge number of violations.

    The situation was highlighted in a Nov. 21 front-page Chicago Tribune article that showed Butler used money from the properties to finance deals in the affluent Gold Coast section of Chicago.

    (Online Disclosure January-February 2005)

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