Lord Stanley’s, FOIA requests, and questions of consistency


It’s a story that won’t die. That’s because DeKalb handled condemnations of Lord Stanley’s and Stanley’s Annex poorly, but officials still won’t admit to errors except to say they should have treated the residents of the upstairs apartments better (i.e., the city should not have threatened them with imminent eviction).

This week the Daily Chronicle has examined the city attorney’s role in the matter. The city maintains that his role is strictly advisory. This is not consistent with what we’ve observed, as exemplified by an email shared with you last week, in which the city attorney appeared to be leading the process.

So today’s theme is consistency and lack of it.

Here’s another example. The condemnations of the Stanleys did not include the services of a structural engineer, and the city says it doesn’t require one to make a condemnation determination. Yet the response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that Michael Haji-Sheikh submitted in regard to the condemnation of Otto’s in 2015 showed that a walkthrough party did include a structural engineer. Why then but not now?

Also, I obtained Stanley’s inspection reports, checked them against DeKalb’s building code and found actions — or, rather, inaction — inconsistent with the code. Violations require prompt re-inspections and, if necessary, a process for escalation of enforcement. The city attorney alluded to this process in an indirect quote from an April 7 news article:

[City attorney Dean] Frieders said an inspection that began months ago resumed and wrapped up midday Friday, and structural problems were found in weight-bearing areas throughout the main floor of the building.

Lord Stanley’s was inspected September 1, 2017. Violations included use of extension cords, a burned-out light bulb and a missing ceiling tile — nothing close to structural issues. Then nobody re-inspected anything until the April 6, 2018, condemnation. There is also zero evidence that the escalation process was followed.

— Re-inspection of the September violations should have been scheduled within five days.

— There is provision for the city to issue a warning ticket, which includes a deadline for corrections.

— There is provision for a failure-to-comply ticket, which assesses a fine and allows the city to abate the violations at the owner’s expense.

Add these newfound failures to follow code to what we’ve already recounted about absence of proper written notice to the owners, incorrect postings on the buildings, and the made-up term “emergency condemnation.” What you get is a city’s frighteningly consistent disregard of its own regulations.