Landlord hit with $500 daily fine
July 3, 2008 -- Will Sherard, who for three years failed to comply with a federal court order to repair his properties, is being fine $500 per day per housing unit until he does so, according to federal court documents.
Sherard's last-ditch effort to avoid repairing the properties failed Tuesday when US District Judge Joseph P. Stadtmueller hit him with the fine, which started accumulating Wednesday.
The consent decree required Sherard to complete window replacement and lead-based paint hazard abatement work on 39 residential properties by July 2008 and July 2010, respectively, according to a letter from Assistant US Attorney Stacy Gerber Ward to Stadtmueller.
There are now 64 properties in question, according to the federal government.
The civil complaint filed by the feds alleged that Sherard failed to warn tenants that the lead paint in apartments he rented to them that could poison their children.
Sherard last month sought to have the abatement order modified or dismissed. He said he wanted to seek federal funding to help offset the cost of the lead-abatement efforts. Sherard said he planned to sell the properties once they were repaired.
"As a small businessperson I have to keep my options open for the most economical situation that is available to me," Sherard wrote last month in a letter to Stadtmueller. "I am a small business, I am a minority business, and I am a senior citizen. At this time I have undergone major surgery. Being a small business means operating on the cash flow of your business operations. All these factors suggest that I have to be frugal in trying to compete and survive in business. Being forced into economical situations beyond my means would be my downfall."
Sherard's lawyer, Stanley Lind, said the properties were unusual in that they were in the central city. Real estate values have fallen, he said. Sherard has paid $15,000 in penalties and $37,000 for a risk assessment related to the abatement order, Lind said.
Gerber Ward, however, said Sherard has not helped the government assess his financial situation.
Stadtmueller said he found no reason to vacate or modify the order.
May 19, 2008 -- Prosecutors are asking a federal judge to find Milwaukee landlord Will Sherard in contempt of court for failing to follow orders related to a three-year-old consent decree that requires him to repair his properties.
The government is seeking penaltes of $500 per day for each day after the Court enters an order for contempt that Sherard continues to fail to comply with the May 2005 orders.
The consent decree required Sherard to complete window replacement and lead-based paint hazard abatement work on 39 residential properties by July 2008 and July 2010, respectively, according to a letter from Assistant US Attorney Stacy Gerber Ward to US District Judge Joseph P. Stadtmueller.
The civil complaint filed by the federal government alleged that Sherard failed to warn tenants that the lead paint in apartments he rented to them that could poison their children.
Amy Murphy, a city lead poisoning prevention official, expressed skepticism in 2005 that Sherard would comply with the order. City health officials identified 12 children who suffered lead poisoning while living in homes that Sherard owned or managed through his firm, W.J. Sherard Realty Co.
"The real victory will be when he has complied with the consent decree," Murphy told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Given his actions with the city, I guess you could say chances may not be good."
Murphy's skepticism was well-placed.
Sherard, under the consent decree, was supposed to identify and hire a contractor to do the work by Nov. 1 of last year, but that did not happen, Gerber Ward said.
addition to violating the Court’s Order, this failure makes it
highly unlikely that the window replacement work will be
Sherard previously missed a deadline for completing a risk assessment on the properties, the government said in a court filing.
"The United States has met with Sherard, Sherard’s counsel, and a contractor Sherard seemed to intend to use for the abatement work," Gerber Ward said. "The United States has proposed certain modifications of the requirements of the Consent Decree in order to facilitate Sherard’s timely completion of these obligations. Despite all these efforts, Sherard has chosen to ignore his obligations."
More recently, she said in a May 5 filing, "I was provided with information that Mr. Sherard may be undergoing surgery in the near future for a medical condition that he has known about for approximately one year. He apparently had that surgery on April 16, 2008. A report I received from Mr. Sherard’s physician states that Mr. Sherard would be unable to in court for the next 30 days while he recovers."
A hearing on the contempt motion has been set for June 30.