Housing director defends senior’s eviction
November 27, 2006
The director of the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority said Monday that his office’s recent decision to force a tenant out of the Aspen Country Inn is because of her “behavior.”Housing director Tom McCabe refused to give specifics about the dispute, but said he will work with 72-year-old Sheryl Robinson to find her another place to live. McCabe repeatedly alluded to a potentially “dangerous” conflict between the tenant and another resident; part of the problem stems from reports that Robinson has been seen peering in another female tenant’s windows from outside, he said.”It’s like children fighting,” he said. The conflict allegedly has drawn verbal and written complaints from others living at Aspen Country Inn. “If it were a guy, and we didn’t act on it, we’d be hung by our thumbs.”Robinson’s plight has drawn the attention of local media, as well as the support of some in town. One neighbor has written a lengthy letter condemning the housing authority’s action, arguing Robinson has done nothing to warrant eviction from her home. A Nov. 21 letter from Cindy Tucker-Davis, a property manager for Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority, informed Robinson of the decision. Tucker-Davis wrote that the authority had decided to not renew Robinson’s lease, which expires Dec. 31.The Aspen Country Inn, a former old hotel and condo facility on Highway 82 just west of town, has been renovated and converted to use as subsidized housing under the control of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. As a federally sanctioned “low-income housing” facility, it must be open to all, though senior citizens get priority placement.McCabe, Tucker-Davis’ boss, described Robinson as someone who “has a reputation of doing things that just put [her] at odds with some folks,” particularly with one other aging tenant, although that tenant did note file the complaint leading to Robinson’s ouster.McCabe also maintained that Tucker-Davis had discussed the “behavior” problems with Robinson before informing her that she would have to move, and that he and Tucker-Davis were “within our rights” in not renewing Robinson’s lease under federal regulations governing management of the facility.According to a report in the Aspen Daily News, Robinson claims to have had no warning that she was being kicked out of the complex.An 18-year Aspen resident who has lived at the Aspen Country Inn for seven years, Robinson earns a part-time income as a cleaning woman and told a reporter that she has nowhere else to live in the Aspen area. She attached a letter appealing for help to her neighbors’ doors and denies being a problem tenant.The letter from Tucker-Davis maintains that Robinson “purposefully … attempted to alienate a new member of our community by spreading ill will and trying to recruit other residents here to ‘hate’ this person.” The letter also referred to complaints referring to Robinson as “spy, unnerving, grouchy, rude, busy body, creepy, harassing, hateful, evil [and] mean-spirited.”Neither Tucker-Davis’ letter nor McCabe would name the person Robinson allegedly offended. One published report quoted Tucker-Davis as calling her “for the most part … a good tenant.” Tucker-Davis could was not available to comment for this story.McCabe refused to name two other residents who have made complaints against Robinson. He said the woman who has been Robinson’s alleged target “has not made a complaint, not said a word.”He also said he has not met with the complaining parties, although he does expect to meet with Robinson this week and said he would “invite” her accusers “if she agrees to that.”The four-page letter from Linelle terms the treatment of Robinson “unfair” and “outrageous,” and declares that even if Robinson dislikes a certain tenant, “the last time I checked, it was still legal to dislike someone” and “to have opinions. What the laws prohibits is any action that harms another person.”McCabe acknowledged that Robinson had not harmed or injured anyone, or violated any rules, but that her behavior has violated “more like societal norms.”Making veiled references to behaviors that “just go a little too far” and “a variety of people who are on the edge” at Aspen Country Inn, he said, “This is getting to the point where I should protect everybody, even if they don’t need it.”He said he hopes to have officials from Pitkin County Social Services take part in any talks with Robinson; he has not recommended a psychological evaluation.”We try not to be coldhearted about these things,” McCabe said, stressing that “senior priority housing is not a right, it’s a privilege” and adding, “Could I change my mind [about the lease]? Perhaps I could.”Asked if he might be overreacting to a spat between elderly neighbors, McCabe conceded, “I do worry about that.”But given his fears that the situation could turn “dangerous” for the residents, he said, a change of heart is not likely.”I hope I’m wrong … I hope Sheryl’s fine, and she’s stable, and she’ll be all right,” he said. “[But] I would rather opt on the side of being safe, rather than sorry.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.