HUD officials interview Phenix City apartment residents after viral video of Stonewood manager berating handicapped resident

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 3, 2013 

Two U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development top management representatives from the Birmingham, Ala., field office spent Tuesday afternoon listening to residents’ concerns at a Phenix City low-income apartment complex.

Their site visit to Stonewood Apartments off 28th Avenue was sparked by a video posted to YouTube last month that shows a former resident manager berating, cursing and threatening to evict a handicapped tenant who was complaining about a faulty refrigerator.

HUD Program Center Director Donna Crane and Chief Project Manager for Multifamily Housing Jalon Rush-Carter began meeting with residents during the lunch hour. They declined to comment, but said this was not a scheduled visit.

The HUD representatives referred all questions to the Birmingham office, which did not respond Tuesday to an email seeking comment.

The HUD investigation into the management of Stonewood, which has 50 federally-subsidized serving elderly and handicapped residents, came after resident William Shaffer posted his video.

The wheelchair-bound Shaffer, who has been disabled since birth, said he was called into an Aug. 16 meeting by then-Stonewood property manager Allison Snipes. He showed up, started the video recorder on his iPhone — apparently without her knowledge — and taped the 6-minute, 24-second conversation.

As of Tuesday, it had more than 23,000 views. HUD began its investigation last week after a Ledger-Enquirer reporter asked the Birmingham office about the video.

Shaffer, 34, who is also deaf and communicates by reading lips, and his mother, Linda Jedon, met with the HUD officials.

Amanda Morris, whose 73-year-old mother Joyce Harrison has lived in the complex nine years, also met with the HUD officials.

Morris credits Shaffer and his video for bringing the seriousness of the management and health issues at the complex to HUD’s attention.

“I believe they are now going to make an attempt to correct the level of unprofessionalism and abuse the tenants have faced here,” Morris said after her meeting, which lasted more than an hour.

Snipes was removed as manager after the video surfaced, and former manager Lisa Moffitt replaced her. Moffitt has repeatedly referred all questions to the complex management company, Texas Apartment Services LLC., in Garland, Texas. Repeated phone messages left with Texas Apartment Services have not been returned.

Morris said her mother has had issues ranging from bats in her apartment to plumbing problems that caused sewage to back up in a bathtub.

“The residents here are scared of Allison and Lisa because of how they have treated them,” Morris said. “They use profanity and holler and scream at them.”

Shaffer’s recording, which is mostly dark but contains clear audio of the conversation, shed light on what was happening at the complex, Morris said.

At the end of the recording, the woman who Shaffer says is Snipes tells him, “You think you are f------ with the wrong person. Just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean s---.”

Morris said Shaffer’s video backed up a lot of what her mother had been telling her about the managers.

“They beat them down,” Morris said. “... I did not realize it was that severe. At times, I thought my mother’s fears were unwarranted. But when I saw the video, it was: ‘So, this is what my mother is afraid of.’”

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