City Councilor Helen Collins, who’s facing a recall election April 7 and an ethics complaint regarding a land deal with tax-limitation author Douglas Bruce, is now coming under scrutiny for numerous code violations at two apartment buildings she owns in Kansas City, Missouri.
Citing “negative activity” at the pair of three-story buildings, Tom Ribera with the Independence Plaza Neighborhood Council, Inc., urges Collins in a March 16 letter to “effectively manage the property for the safety of the neighborhood.”
“With warmer weather just around the corner,” he writes, “the properties will, once again, be overrun with vagrants and criminal activities.”
Collins did not respond to requests for comment.
Frustrated by Collins’ refusal to keep up the properties, Ribera contacted the City Attorney’s Office, the Independent, the Gazette and Colorado Springs Government Watch, which is funding the recall effort, on March 19, providing several documents, including code enforcement history. In an email, Ribera says Collins told him she lost her property manager and hasn’t collected rents “for quite some time.”
The Independence Plaza neighborhood is near the downtown area. Median income is $24,982, just 57 percent of the city’s as a whole, according to city-data.com. Most residents haven’t finished high school.
Jackson County property records show Collins bought the pair of six-unit buildings and an adjacent vacant lot in March 2013 (while she was running for City Council) for $100,000 from Deutsche Bank, which had acquired them in foreclosure. From 2012 to 2014, the value fell from $144,257 to $105,000, county records show. As of Monday, she owed $1,828.23 in taxes, penalties and interest on the property, due Dec. 31, 2014.
Collins’ properties have 13 open code violations ranging from trash and rubbish to blistering and peeling paint, records show. The most recent were issued Feb. 17, about a month after recall petitions (which cited Collins’ association with Bruce, among other things) were ruled sufficient. The City Attorney’s Office filed an ethics complaint a week later, alleging Collins helped Bruce stiff the city on a $7,600 court judgment against him by accepting a condo in Colorado Springs from him in early December and then selling it to a third party. The ethics complaint is under investigation.
Bruce also owns a property in Kansas City, across town, whose value dropped from $31,795 in 2012 to $6,000 in 2014. It has five pending code violations.