Henrico serves criminal summonses against Essex Village management

Henrico County has obtained 11 criminal summonses against PK Management, which manages Essex Village, for violations at the northern Henrico property, a county official said Tuesday evening.

Nine summonses were served Tuesday, two more are pending, and the county will seek four more by the end of the week, Building Official Greg Revels said.

The summonses were a result of a task force created by County Manager John Vithoulkas last summer to address severe code violations and increase the quality of life in Essex Village, the county’s largest public housing project.

The summonses were announced during a work session updating the Board of Supervisors on the task force’s findings and progress at Essex Village.

Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Patricia O’Bannon said the summonses were progress but that she wanted to see more action.

“I would like to go up to Washington and talk to some people,” O’Bannon said.

Deputy County Manager of Public Safety Douglas Middleton led the work session and began by showing a clip of a recent CBS 6 investigation into Essex Village. He continued to show pictures of and describe violations county officials found during an extensive inspection in November 2016: broken windows, missing pickets in balconies, overflowing dumpsters, raw sewage in public areas, deteriorating stairwells and evidence of illegal activities, including a hypodermic needle.

By November, Henrico had opened 140 building code cases in Essex Village, Middleton said.

Middleton also answered questions from the board, including a frank one from Supervisor Thomas Branin, who asked "Is there anything that Essex Village is doing right?"

Responded Middleton: “Up to this point, I would venture to say that I would give you a straightforward no."

Essex Village is privately owned but its owners receive funding from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development department. HUD has ultimate authority over the complex.

In December 2015, HUD inspected Essex Village and gave it a passing grade of 74, Middleton said. Then this January, HUD inspected the complex again and gave it a failing grade of 44, Middleton said.

Essex Village is owned by Gregory Pearlman and managed by PK Management, which is also owned by Pearlman. Pearlman manages 18,000 HUD units in the country. Last year, Pearlman received more than $152 million from HUD to subsidize rent, according to CBS 6.

Pearlman attributed the problems at Essex Village to a single manager at PK Management who has since been fired, he said in an interview with CBS 6.

Middleton questioned how one employee’s decisions could have resulted in the conditions at Essex Village, he said.

“I think HUD dropped the ball with their inspections, and I’m absolutely confident that Pearlman and PK Management could have cared less,” Middleton said.

Improving conditions at Essex Village has been a slow process for county officials, because the county only can take action on conditions that state code permits it to. The managers of the property are responsible for its maintenance.

“We have been doing our best to get management to comply with the standards we have, but this is a privately owned complex that is funded by a federal agency over which we have absolutely no control, for either party,” Middleton said.

Officials also cannot go inside a unit unless the tenant invites them in. In November, officials inspected the exterior of Essex Village and units into which they were invited.

“As much as we’ve tried and as hard as we’ve worked, I’m absolutely convinced that it is going to take a continued consistent pressure from the county to see the kind of changes that we want to see there,” Middleton said. “That is exactly what we’re planning to do.”

The task force compiled an action plan to continue to its progress, which included:

• proceeding with legal course of action;

• continuing task force operations to enforce code;

• continuing to encourage HUD to be more proactive;

• working with appropriate elected officials;

• striving for a better quality of life for citizens.

“The bottom line is, these are humans beings living here,” Middleton said. “Somebody has to care.”
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The Henrico Christmas Mother will accept applications for assistance on the first four Mondays of October at 361 Dabbs House Rd. at the following times: 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 2, 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 9, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 16, and 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 23. Applicants must live in Henrico County and meet income guidelines. Families with school age or younger children, adults 65 and over and adults with a documented disability may apply. For information on how to apply and the documents required, as well as information on how to make a donation, visit http://www.henricochristmasmother.org. Full text

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