William Shaffer says he was tired of the abuse.
The physically challenged 34-year-old man said the manager at Stonewood Apartments in Phenix City had been harassing him because he was complaining about a faulty refrigerator.
The wheelchair-bound Shaffer, who has been disabled since birth, said he was called into an Aug. 16 meeting by 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.
Shaffer, who is also deaf and reads lips to communicate, was threatened with eviction, berated and cursed at during the meeting, then downloaded the video on YouTube.
As of Monday evening, it had more than 13,000 views. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is investigating the situation, according to an HUD spokesman in Birmingham, Ala.
“Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention,” Hollis N. Wormsby of the HUD Birmingham office wrote in an email Monday morning to the Ledger-Enquirer. “When HUD contracts with private landlords, we require fairness and expect the residents to be treated with respect. We are in the process of evaluating the issues raised and we are communicating with the property owner and the management company.”
Residents at Stonewood, a 55-unit complex on 28th Avenue that provides federally subsidized housing for primarily disabled and elderly tenants, were informed last Thursday that Snipes was no longer the manager. A brief note said Lisa Moffitt is now the resident manager. Moffitt declined Ledger-Enquirer interview requests Friday and Monday and referred all questions to the complex management company, Texas Apartment Services LLC., in Garland, Texas. Phone messages left Friday and Monday with Texas Apartment Services were not returned.
“Everybody is hush-hush,” Moffitt said. “This is being handled by lawyers. I am sitting in the office so there is a manager on duty.”
Here's the clip:
Shaffer’s recording, which is mostly dark but contains clear audio of the conversation, has sparked interest in his apartment complex and throughout the community.
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---.”
Eric Woodson is involved in The Neighborhood Watchers Group on Facebook. The page helped inform people about Shaffer’s video, and Woodson said he was outraged when he heard it.
“Seeing the way he was treated really got under my skin,” Woodson said. “ All he was trying to do is get his refrigerator fixed. And he has been trying to since December.”
Tammy Brown, a retired Columbus legal secretary now living in Panama City Beach, Fla., encouraged Shaffer to record the meeting.
“He told me this has been going on since December,” Brown said. “He told me she was mean to him, hollered at him and made him nervous. I never dreamed the woman would say anything like that.”
The woman on the tape is apparently upset that Shaffer has been sending text messages to other Stonewood residents about his refrigerator and asking about his legal rights. He told the woman on the YouTube video he was going to call her bosses and she refused to give Shaffer the phone number to Texas Apartment Services.
“I am not giving you nothing,” she said.
On the tape, the woman threatens to evict Shaffer because he made alterations to the apartment he has lived in for about a decade. The woman on the tape told Shaffer he had torn out a sink and changed the countertops.
This claim infuriates Shaffer’s mother, Linda Jedeon, a civil service employee at Fort Benning.
“We upgraded them, putting in granite countertops,” Jedeon said. “And he asked for permission.”
For the apartment, Shaffer pays $170 per month and receives the remaining $400 from a federal Section 8 subsidy. His apartment is clean and decorated with a painting of Christ’s Last Supper hanging on a wall in the living room.
George Coar, 70, has lived in Stonewood for about 10 years and has seen “seven or eight different managers.” He watched the YouTube video.
“It’s outrageous,” Coar said. “But that is the deal you get around here. They may put me out for saying this, but that is OK. I am ready to go.” Shaffer, who treasures his independence, said he wants to stay in the complex.
“I have stayed to myself because I was afraid she was going to get me out of here,” Shaffer said. “Now that I have the tape, I have proof that she was threatening me.”
Woodson, who has befriended Shaffer, wants the management issues at Stonewood addressed by Housing and Urban Development as well as Texas Apartment Services.
“On the tape, she said he had effed with the wrong person,” Woodson said. “I think that has now been reversed. She effed with the wrong guy in a wheelchair.”