Senior Center tensions rise over eviction
Swift’s Notice to Quit questioned by neighbors
Valdez Star photo
Octogenarian Red Swift and a raft of supporters are questioning the reasons stated behind a Notice to Quit – a first firing shot given before a formal eviction notice –Swift received from the administration at the Valdez Senior Center.
A number of members of the Valdez Senior Center are seeing red after George “Red” Swift, an 84-year-old resident of the facility who has lived in an apartment in the building for 14 years, was served with a “Notice to Quit.” The legal document is the first step a landlord must undertake to evict a tenant from a rented property.
On the surface, the possible eviction is a common civil dispute between a landlord (the Valdez Senior Center) and tenant, Swift. However, some members of the Valdez Senior Center say the notice is motivated by a series of running disputes between Swift and the center’s general manager, Wanda Clark. Advocates for Swift claim the retired bartender got on the wrong side of Clark and some members of the board of directors and the quit notice is motivated by revenge, not actual serious violations of the lease.
The board and Clark deny the allegation.
“I keep hearing retaliation, retaliation, retaliation. I have nothing but the best intentions towards the senior center,” Clark said in frustration during the interview. “It saddens me and breaks my heart that anybody would say I would retaliate against them.”
The notice, dated Aug. 28, claims Swift is in violation of his lease agreement in six specific areas and he must remedy the violations immediately or he must move out of his apartment Oct.1. If he fails to move or remedy the alleged violation, he could face an eviction lawsuit.
The violations include a failure to pay required additional charges for large electrical items in his apartment, complaints he leaves his windows open with the thermostat turned onto its highest setting, using foul language in the building, smoking cigarettes in his apartment and that he throws loud parties that disturb other tenants. It also takes Swift to task for parking his motorized scooter in the building’s entryway instead of his assigned space in the carport.
Some supporters have come forward to support Swift, but say they fear the consequences of publicly supporting his cause.
“I do not want my name in the paper because there will be retribution,” one supporter wrote in a signed letter to the editor that was not published due to the fact the writer asked to remain anonymous. (Not to be confused with Nancy Lethcoe’s letter to the editor in this edition.) The writer was identified by newspaper staff and spoke on condition of anonymity.
“She can retaliate so badly,” the supporter said in an interview. The Valdez Star is declining to publish the examples of previous acts of retribution allegations cited by the concerned supporter. No instances of elder abuse have been made, but some are saying residents that speak up against management policies or decisions they disagree with later find it difficult to live at the Valdez Senior Center.
“There’s a lot going on there,” John Miscovich, president of the senior center board, said in an interview Monday afternoon when asked specific questions regarding the notice to quit and the allegations of vindictive actions from the center’s management. “I’m bound by HIPAA laws. I could get into trouble for even speaking of it.”
Clark, who works under the direction of the board of directors, echoed the frustration expressed by Miscovitch.
“I’m stuck, I can’t even defend myself or this agency,” Clark said in an interview Tuesday morning. “I just wish people would come talk to me instead of talking behind my back.”
HIPAA – federal law that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – prohibits individuals and institutions that electronically bill for medical services from divulging information about clients. The Valdez Senior Center falls under the HIPAA act.
Swift’s supporters say they have brought their concerns to Clark and the board, but to no avail.
Swift’s supporters flat-out dispute some the allegations in the quit notice or point out what they say are hardships with compliance and one instance where the center itself is out of compliance.
“For the past several years, there have been no parties in Mr. Swift’s apartment that have disturbed us, his nearest neighbors,” states a letter dated Sept. 1 that is addressed to Clark and is signed by Swift’s four nearest neighbors in the Senior Center.
“I can’t speak to the letter,” Clark said, but added, “I will say there are 15 apartments in this building” and not all complaints have come from tenants.
Clark said she could not answer questions alleging the board’s decision to kill off a grandfather clause that allowed Swift to smoke cigarettes in his apartment after the city owned building became a no smoking facility was aimed only at Swift or whether allegations of further fowl language in public places continued after a board reprimand. She also said Swift can easily remedy all of the violations listed in the notice.
“That was written by my senior center attorney,” Clark said, “It tells him he can fix all these things.”
Don Stelling, an advocate for Swift, pointed out that it is hypocritical the center is demanding Swift no longer park his scooter in the front entryway of the building, when a scooter owned by the facility is clearly blocking a fire extinguisher on the second floor. Others question the wisdom of leaving an electric scooter in an outdoor carport where he has been asked to keep it when not in use. It has also been pointed out that Swift has mobility problems, including surgeries on his feet, and it is very painful for him to walk.
For others, the real question the notice has generated for those concerned, is why some tenants fear retribution by Clark.
Don Stelling photo
Critics of Red Swift’s eviction complaint have pointed out that the scooter owned by the Senior Center is kept in front of one of the building’s fire extinguishers.
“If there was going to be retribution I would have already done it,” Clark said when asked point blank how she responds to allegations from some tenants that they fear retribution from her office if tenants speak out or disagree with board policies or issues such as Swift’s eviction.
Some residents stated quite clearly they are genuinely concerned about their tenancy at the center. Rent charges are only $750 a month, utilities included, for a one bedroom apartment which is inexpensive by Valdez standards.
Miscovitch pointed out that Clark has managed the center’s finances to the point the organization is deep in the black, got a glowing audit, and is in better financial shape under Clark than it had been form many years.
“Financially, we are in great shape,” Miscovitch said, and he feels the seniors at the center are under excellent hands with Clark in charge.
“She knows how to get it done,” he said, “She knows all the regulations.”