Walk for a Moment in the Shoes of Lee Lloyd

Lee Lloyd's yard | Mary Lee writes
This is a six-year-long story of  a homeowner’s frustration and official indifference in our hometown. I’m sharing it because it came up again recently when two friends who live near the intersection of Rains and Wilkins asked what has been going on in that block. One commented that she was sick of the street being blocked. I kept quiet, but in thinking over the conversation, I decided this story must be told if Lee Lloyd is ever to be helped. It is a current concern; work is still being done to remedy the problem, the first complaint having been made in 2009.

I sold a home to Lee in 2008. He had worked for Ann Burns Smith, who referred me to him, as Lee had worked for her family for many years and had recently taken a factory job. He was ready to purchase a home.

I called Lee and accompanied him to Liberty Bank, working with Libby Donahue. After getting verification of pre-qualification for a VA loan, we started looking at houses. The house at 1513 Rains St. had been listed, and I was anxious to show it to Lee. One of the things a former owner told me was that he had fenced in the back yard and built a deck, which he enjoyed with his dog. When Lee and I stepped onto the deck, I remember commenting that I would be by to have a glass of iced tea with him. Another selling factor was that the house is located a couple of blocks from Mrs. Smith, whom he still helped.

The disclosure was submitted to Lee. Home Inspection Service, Anita Rothgery, was hired to perform the inspection, which showed no water standing underneath the house. The termite report was excellent. We were pleased with the reports and closed on Oct. 1, 2008.

I was so happy for Lee and, as I had known him for years and respected him, I left closing with a sense of a job well done. In the 26 years I sold real estate, as I think any customer will remember, my number one goal was to put them in a house that could easily be resold, should the need arise.

On April 18, 2009, I was in Nashville, Tenn., with friends and while driving I received a cell call from Lee. He told me he had a water problem with his house, and I suggested he call the city as I was out of town and remembered the disclosure had said nothing about water intrusion. I assumed the city had taken care of it as I heard nothing more. I neglected to check back with him as I had promised and deeply regret that.

Mary Lee Writes

Lee in his driveway in 2009

In June of that year, I received a call from Mrs. Smith about flooding and alerted Nancy Burks, the listing agent. She talked with her sellers. I have a copy of her email reply which states that the seller said water had not stood on the property. The seller is quoted as saying there was some water during a strong rain but it had immediately drained off. The seller also mentioned that the ditch contained more standing water than previously.

In early July, I sent a copy of the disclosure to Mrs. Smith and Lee, and on July 12, 2009, I received the letter, dated July 10, 2009. I was horrified, as the picture accompanying the letter showed several feet of standing water on the property. You could see the line, about halfway up a smoker located in the middle of the yard.

I contacted Jeff Scriber, who had previously owned the house, and he told me that sometimes after a hard rain he had water running into his drive and garage. He said the city poured a small curb at the street, and that took care of the matter. At that point, I contacted a city council member, Rennell Woods, and we met in the conference room at ReMax with Lee Lloyd on Monday, July 20, 2009. We explained the situation to Mr. Woods, and he promised to make the city officials aware of the problem. After the meeting, Mr. Woods accompanied me to the north end of Wofford to survey the drainage issue.

I became frustrated that nothing was being done to help Mr. Lloyd, and his problem seemed to have been put on the back burner of concerns. On Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009, I met with Mayor Perrin in his office. This meeting was at my insistence. He asked Gary Harpole to sit in at the meeting. I was delighted with their response to the problem and left there with the feeling the mayor would see this through to a just solution for Mr. Lloyd. Little did I know the problem would be ignored.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, I went by the house to check after a hard rain. I have pictures that will attest to the destruction. I immediately emailed them to the mayor. He called and told me they would be in touch with Mr. Loyd that evening. As of Sept. 29, 2009, and on into October, we heard nothing from the office of the mayor.

Donn Mixon is the attorney for Mr. Lloyd in this issue, and I emailed him suggesting the city might consider purchasing Mr. Lloyd’s house as I knew the city had done this previously because of flooding issues.

On Dec. 10, 2009, I had a frantic call from Mr. Lloyd. The water was rushing beneath his house.

I emailed the mayor again on Jan. 1, 2010, telling him Mr. Lloyd had not been contacted as promised.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2010, I received an email asking for a meeting with Mr. Lloyd and myself along with several city officials and the mayor. We agreed to a meeting on Friday, Feb. 12, 2010, at 4:30 PM in the mayor’s office. The next morning Mayor Perrin met with Brian Riga, a former council member, and Terry Barre, the engineer on St. Bernards Village. After that meeting, the mayor met with Philip Crego, city attorney, and canceled the scheduled meeting via email, explaining:

Mary Lee, I regret that after all our years of friendship that my position as mayor of Jonesboro forces me to have to consult legal counsel on matters that in simpler times would have allowed me to visit with a dear friend over an issue they need help on. However, my practice on any situation regarding contracts, agreements, or legal matters is to seek the counsel and advice of our city attorney Philip Crego. In hindsight, I wish I had visited with him prior to setting up our meeting for later this week.

After reviewing all of the information regarding this issue, Philip has advised me that the city should refrain from meeting with any of the parties involved in this dispute. It is his opinion that the city has no place in these ongoing discussions and that we also have a reasonable assumption that we may be summoned to court if the litigaton proceeds; therefore, we should not take any meetings on the matter.

I hope you understand. We are notifying you and Mr. Lloyd’s attorney of our position. If we can be of any assistance to you on matters not pertaining to this issue please do no hesitate to contact me.

–Harold Perrin, Mayor of Jonesboro

I also had an email reply from Rennell Woods saying that the stoppage of the flowing water may be the city’s problem. Also, a city official who talked with Mr. Lloyd told him he had been “had” by his Realtor. I later visited with this man, and he admitted to me he had said that. I told him he had succeeded in making Mr. Lloyd angry as he had hired Donn Mixon, and I was being sued. Also, Chris Light with the City told Donn Mixon, the attorney representing Lee Lloyd, that the city plans to build a retention pond because water had long been a problem in that area.

 

Construction in front of Lee’s house

After inquiring as to the status of the lawsuit, I was told it had been dropped against the Realtors as the city was found to be at fault. I saw Mayor Perrin one day having lunch and asked him about the suit, wondering if he would do anything to help Mr. Lloyd. He replied that APERMA (Arkansas Public Entities Risk Management Association) had told him the city was clear. When I told Mr. Lloyd this, he said his attorney had just told him there is still an ongoing suit against the city. That day, the mayor commented that he would check out the situation and call me. I never heard from him, and a couple of weeks later I wrote my number on a paper napkin and gave it to him, saying that he must have misplaced my contact information.

In the last couple of months, there has been a lot of activity in the drainage area by the Lloyd home. I have pictures showing a new culvert, concrete work, and a repaired drive for the neighbor across the street. Lee told me that they never even asked if they could work on his property and in asking about the construction, the one in charge said he should have been notified.

When the former attorney general, Dustin McDaniel, started his law firm in Little Rock, I called him to ask if he would consider taking this case. He told me he would have his partner, Bart Calhoun, look into it. Mr. Calhoun requested that I send the information to him by email. I didn’t hear from him, finally receiving a call from Dustin saying he was sorry, but he had too many ties with the city of Jonesboro to take on this case. I let him know how disappointed I was because I truly thought he was committed to the underserved of our community.

Next I sent an email to David Mosesso at the Jonesboro Sun. He turned it over to a reporter who contacted me to ask for Lee Lloyd’s phone number. I gave it to him. The last time I talked with Lee he had not heard from him. I had hoped an investigative reporter would be interested in this story.

I contacted Michael Booker, a friend and attorney in Little Rock, who grew up in Jonesboro. I sent him the information and have never heard from him nor has he returned my calls.

I contacted a local NAACP representative who said he would talk to some folks and get back to me. I haven’t heard a word.

Lee says his kitchen floor is buckling from the moisture. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in that house. I have pictures showing debris from the water on the back steps, a picture of water flowing beneath the house and coming through the foundation vents, water ruining everything in the garage including a nice sofa. I don’t even want to think of the mold in the walls because of the ongoing moisture problem.

Lee had saved and had an excellent credit score. He used his Veterans Administration eligibility to purchase the house. I have even wondered if the VA might have an interest in righting this situation. The VA has insured this loan, and it is an unsellable piece of property as it stands. Lee is making payments on a house he cannot safely live in, nor can he sell. Walk in his shoes for just a moment and feel his helplessness.

I am writing this because I am running out of options in helping Lee get justice. I cannot understand why a decent, hard working person who is a product of our community could be treated so unfairly. Obviously, Lee’s voice is not loud enough to be a threat and mine isn’t either. Is there anyone who cares enough to speak out and help Lee Lloyd?

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