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Elderly residents defend housing manager

Scott CondonAspen, CO Colorado
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CARBONDALE Some residents of a senior housing complex in Carbondale feel their “happy, beautiful community” is getting a bad name because of a nasty dispute between one tenant and the management.Dorothy Doyle, a four-year resident of the Crystal Meadows apartments, said she was among about a dozen residents who decided to speak out Tuesday in defense of manager Jerilyn Nieslanik and Kerry McQuay, the maintenance man. They have been unable to speak up for themselves in an eviction action with resident Lea Cano, Doyle noted.Cano’s lease wasn’t renewed on March 1 after she’d been living there for eight years. She was ordered out of the complex for allegedly breaking the rules over several years. Many allegations center on Cano’s relations with neighbors and management, according to documents Cano supplied.Cano claimed she is being unjustly targeted because she has voiced complaints against management. She said she may leave but will still fight the eviction and attempt to change Crystal Meadows’ management practices.Nieslanik and the Carbondale Housing Authority’s board of directors have declined comment on the case. Their attorney, Tim Whitsitt, said board members are bound to secrecy by confidentiality requirements.

Crystal Meadows supplies crucial housing for elderly and disabled residents. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development helped fund construction of the complex, and it subsidizes rents.Doyle said she and other residents of Crystal Meadows met Tuesday and decided it was time to speak up.”We’ve got a wonderful life here. For anybody to complain is insane,” she said.Doyle said she doesn’t personally know Cano so she couldn’t comment on her claims or the complaints against her. However, she said she doesn’t want to see Nieslanik or McQuay removed.Other residents apparently share the concern. A petition in support of the management circulated recently among the residents of the 64-unit apartment complex. Doyle estimated that between 40 and 50 people had signed by the time the petition came to her.

Three other residents of Crystal Meadows called The Aspen Times on Tuesday to speak in support of the Crystal Meadows community and management.Cano previously alleged that some residents signed the petition because they feared retribution if they didn’t. She claimed that residents are scared that if they don’t agree with the management, they will be the next targets.But Doyle said Nieslanik goes out of her way to help residents of Crystal Meadows. For example, she once stayed up all night to aid and comfort a sick resident there. Doyle credited Nieslanik for being an effective manager but also going beyond being a landlord with a caring attitude. Doyle also said McQuay repairs items the same day they are brought to his attention.The coverage of the dispute has upset many residents of Crystal Meadows, according to Doyle.”It’s all we’re talking about,” she said. “It beats the hell out of the Anna Nicole Smith situation.”

Doyle, 82, said residents want to see the issue resolved and the cloud removed from Crystal Meadows. Some observers must think they are acting like teenagers, she said, when the problem is really isolated to one resident. “We treasure our happy, peaceful life here,” she said.U.S. Rep. John Salazar is among outsiders trying to sort through the eviction fight. Cano asked his office for help. He asked HUD to investigate her claims about management irregularities at Crystal Meadows and he suggested her eviction could be avoided.HUD responded in a letter dated March 12 that it doesn’t have jurisdiction over Crystal Meadows management issues and indicated the tenant-landlord dispute was handled to its satisfaction.Salazar, a Democrat from Colorado, didn’t settle for that answer. He wrote a letter Tuesday to U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, chairwoman on the subcommittee on housing and community opportunity, seeking help sorting through the dispute.”There seems to be some confusion as to who has ultimate jurisdiction on the issues raised by my constituent,” Salazar wrote to Waters, a Democrat from California. “Since programs administered by HUD fall within your subcommittee’s jurisdiction, I am asking for your review and determination of HUD’s responsibility, if any.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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