CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - City of Charlotte code enforcement is under the microscope following a presentation where it appeared to provide city council with inaccurate information regarding the troubled Lake Arbor Apartments.
Code enforcement has inspected every unit at Lake Arbor (nearly 300) and found violations in each one.
The city is taking apartment management to environmental court for a number of cases where it has failed to comply, but residents have alleged transparency issues with city staff and apartment management.
These concerns grew following the Oct. 8 city council meeting.
"In all of your inspections did you find evidence of rodent infestation?" Councilman Gregory Phipps asked Code Enforcement Director Ben Krise.
"No, sir," Krise replied.
This is concerning for residents because many of them provided FOX 46 Charlotte with video and photo evidence of rats.
On top of that, FOX 46 obtained a code enforcement document that contradicts what Krise said, reading, "infestation...rodents."
City of Charlotte confirmed this violation.
"We have identified that rodent droppings were found in this unit," city spokesperson Katie Hedrick said. "However, inspectors saw no actual rodents but in an effort to provide more thorough information, we will go back to look at all open cases to determine if additional signs of infestations were found at the time of inspections."
FOX 46 reached out to councilman Phipps, who admits, he took Krise's answer as truth, but now he is concerned.
FOX 46 delivered Phipps a copy of code enforcement's own report that points to a rodent infestation.
"To have a report from code enforcement that seems to suggest the opposite is a surprise to me and that's not the message I received on two-separate occasions when I asked the question," Phipps said.
This is not the only transparency concern for residents and community organizers.
Code enforcement has been meeting with apartment management and their attorneys behind closed doors. Residents and media members have been denied access to meetings.
"Staff needs to be honest with council and council needs to be honest with the community and we need to have as much transparency as possible throughout this whole conversation," city council member LaWana Mayfield said. "And we can't have a transparent conversation if the residents aren't at the table."
During the Oct. 8 council meeting, code enforcement started its presentation with a slideshow that showed trash and clothes on an apartment floor, citing, unsanitary conditions.
"Code enforcement was trying to create an image that the residents are the reason that these apartments are deteriorated and that's not the case," Action N.C. organizer Jessica Moreno said.
Code enforcement failed to show other findings that have not been addressed, and are arguably much more serious -- such as mold and water leaks from ceilings.
Findings that point to the "slumlords" as being responsible.
It was a part of the presentation that troubled Mayfield.
"It was very misleading, the way some of the photos were presented," Mayfield said. "I don't believe that there was intent by code enforcement to sweep it under the rug but I do think that it was a concerted effort to focus on improvements that were made even though those improvements are by minimum code standards."
Mayfield said she is in contact with N.C. State Representative Chaz Beasley to go over potential "slumlord" legislation.
"We have the potential of new officials coming in to Raleigh in both the House and the Senate," Mayfield said. "Can [they] commit to working with us to create legislation that actually protects the residents and not be so protective of slumlords and bad actors of the community?
"At the end of the day, the General Assembly sets the lay of the land in North Carolina and we don't have as strong of protections as I would like."
Charlotte mayor Vi Lyles has called for weekly updates from code enforcement relating to Lake Arbor.
FOX 46 has reached out to her office for a sit-down interview about Lake Arbor for more than two months, but we have repeatedly been denied that request.