MILWAUKEE -- A landlord is being sued by the City of Milwaukee for allegedly neglecting 12 of his properties on the city's south side. The lawsuit says several of his buildings have been the site of drug dealing and prostitution. The landlord is also being accused of taking bribes from tenants. He says the allegations against him aren't true.
Alderman Bob Donovan and Alderman Jose Perez held a joint press conference on Wednesday afternoon, February 15th. They said the lawsuit is a step forward in the city's efforts to crack down on bad landlords.
"When I got served (Tuesday), it was a shock," said Ken Churchill, landlord.
Churchill said he never thought he'd be faced with a lawsuit like this.
"I used to love to do it. I'd buy houses that are all boarded up. I enjoy bringing life back into them," said Churchill.
The City of Milwaukee is now suing Churchill, accusing him of neglecting 12 of his properties on the south side. Several have been hot spots for drug dealing and prostitution.
Aldermen spoke out against him on Wednesday.
"He's trash and we need to get him out," said Alderman Bob Donovan.
Churchill said he's been working with police and claimed he has the documentation to prove it. Those who work near the buildings plagued by crime said they feel he hasn't done enough.
"If you own one too many properties and you can't handle them, then it's time to let them go," a neighbor said.
Churchill said he sends the city records of new tenants. In a letter to the Milwaukee Police Department just days before the city filed the lawsuit, he wrote that a troubled tenant was removed from the property and a big problem is women with clean records renting out the property and not living in it.
"It's people with good records. They have no bad backgrounds, so I rent to them, and I find out they are not staying there," said Churchill.
Alderman Perez said they've found tenants with a history of drugs renting out more than one of Churchill's properties.
"What I was startled by was the shuffling of the same actors within the properties that this person owns," said Perez.
The lawsuit also alleges Churchill knew about these crimes and would take $1,000 monthly cash payments from tenants.
"I swear to you that is a false allegation. I have too much to lose for one," said Churchill.
The lawsuit names multiple code violations.
Churchill admitted several of his properties are in need of repairs, but it doesn't compare to all the work he's done already. He said he's not going to give up.
"I thought by working with 2nd District, trying to keep these drug dealers out of the homes, that we can eventually stop this. If I give up on this property, then I lost and they win," said Churchill.
Churchill said he's upset no alderman has reached out to him.
Alderman Perez said they'd meet with anyone who wants to improve south side neighborhoods.