Let's begin with citizen Ben Holder who signed the petition to inspect Heritage House along with 4 other people who didn't live at Heritage House. None of the 5 signers of the petition lived at Heritage House. 177 units and 400 residents and Ben Holder couldn't find a single one who would complain. Also, Ben was not yet under contract when he did his stories on Heritage House so odds are he was trespassing on private property.
Then we add in the people who recommended Ben for his contract inspecting homes for the City of Greensboro: Mayor Nancy Barakat Vaughan, Councilman Mike Barber, Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson and a man Ben professed to not liking, retired Guilford County Commissioner and Commercial real estate broker Skip Alston. They were all listed among Ben's business references on his response to the City's request for proposals. What kind of business Ben had done with these people the response did not say.
You might also remember that Skip Alston was involved just last year in that backroom attempt the get the Greensboro City Council to give the Bessemer Shopping Center and $2 Million Dollars of taxpayer monies to 2 developers for which Mr Alston would receive a brokerage commission of $150,000 before myself and others exposed the plot and put the brakes on that crooked deal.
Sharing the same building with Heritage House is Meridian Event Center.
The Greensboro business license for Meridian Event Center showed the owners to be Jawahar Muniyandi and Shanthi Jawahar of Cary, North Carolina. They also own ISHA Homes LLC. which currently has title to 7 units at Heritage House. Previously ISHA Homes owned many more units at Heritage House having sold many to their current owners. Meridian was in-fact part of the "new management" that took over Heritage House when everything started going down hill so rapidly.
Jawahar and Shanthi made a lot of money selling off those units at Heritage House but running a business that caters fancy weddings to young brides and holding conventions must have been hard with all the reported goings on there. Besides, where are all the wedding guests and conventioneers to go after they get liquored up if there's no hotel next door to sleep it off in? Jawahar and Shanthi needed a hotel to grow their wedding and convention business.
Another big player is Southern Community Bank and Trust who foreclosed on the property when the developer Heritage House 310 LLC went belly up in 2008. Southern Community Bank and Trust sold numerous properties directly to homeowners and retained ownership of all the parking lots, halls, elevators and commons areas totaling 5.87 acres. In effect, Southern Community Bank and Trust owned the entire outside structure and infrastructure of the building and yet their property was listed as having zero tax value.
Despite the fact that the bank's property value was listed at zero property value, had someone been injured in say a falling elevator, Southern Community Bank and Trust would have been liable to pay medical bills and damages. More likely would have been the falling of the poorly maintained canopy over the main entrance weighing several tons. Or someone falling in a poorly maintained stairwell. Already Sonny Vestal of Vestal Property Management had absconded with the money that was meant for repairs and maintenance and the property was going downhill fast. Southern Community Bank and Trust was recently acquired by Capital Bank Holdings. It could be the new bank's owners looked at the possible liability of owning property that was returning zero revenue and located in what had quickly become a bad neighborhood and got imaginative about how they might get rid of said liability.
Of course, there's plenty of motivation for Jawahar and Shanthi and the bank but how do we get the City to go along? City employees aren't going to lay it all on the line for something like this. Jawahar and Shanthi start by approaching Skip Alston who is well known locally for pulling off shady deals as he knows all the right people like mayors and council members. Skip knows who will deal and who won't. After all, he just got away with $750,000 of taxpayer money that he ripped-off from the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, remember? Skip calls Mike Barber and Don Vaughan to help him out. For those who might not know, Don Vaughan is a former Greensboro City Councilman and retired North Carolina State Senator who happens to be married to Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. He'll walk Nancy through the entire process slick as a whistle.
In the meantime there's the problem of first time District 1 Councilwoman Sharon Hightower, earnest in her attempts to solve the problems at Heritage House and prove her worth to District 1 residents as well as the rest of the city. Sharon couldn't be bought, they didn't even dare approach her with the deal so they made up a lie about turning the property into a privately owned retirement home for poor people of which there are many in Sharon's district and few safe places to go.
But there's still the problem of getting the people out of Heritage House. Nancy might break a nail and Mike is intent on being the next mayor. Nancy and Mike call Ben Holder and tip him off to a story with the promise that if he does a good job he'll make some real cash this time. Having been a street hustler his entire life Ben sobers up long enough to take the bait, writes some stories about Heritage House and talks 4 college kids into signing a petition to issue a warrant to inspect the property. Even newly elected District 2 City Councilman Jamal Fox complained publicly that Ben had been promised a job. Jamal was another who wasn't going to be invited to their game. And the petition? You know college kids, they're per-programmed to sign every petition that comes along. For all they knew they were saving the whales or stopping the cutting of the Amazon Rain Forests. Not that there's anything wrong with that, being a lifelong liberal I signed those petitions myself.
But their plan still didn't work. Too many units passed inspection and the City issued Certificates Of Occupancy to the homeowners. The animal feces on the floor? Fifi had an accident before mommy got home from work to clean it up. It happens in homes all across America-- it's even happened in Mayor Nancy Vaughan's Irving Park mansion when she brings her prized hunting dog, Remington's puppies inside for her daughter Katheryn to play with. You can't condemn a home with a valid certificate of occupancy. Nope, they had to come up with something better and getting rank and file code enforcement officers and police officers to lie wasn't going to work.
Besides, if you pay off everyone all your profits are soon gone.
Their solution: turn off the water and declare the property unlivable. And if the media should ask to see the water bill then do exactly as was reported in the News & Record: say State law does not require its release and refuse to release it.
Naw, that couldn't have happened... could it?