The Longmont Housing Authority did not address the warrantless searches from last year when its executive director met with Longmont City Council on Tuesday night.
According to executive director Michael Reis, this was the first formal meeting between the Longmont Housing Authority and city council since 2012.
"We used to meet as a board and staff with the council in an annual presentation," said Reis. "Glad we're starting this tradition again."
Reis and another LHA staffer gave the city council an extensive history and financial report on the Longmont Housing Authority.
The update did not reference the warrantless searches that took place at The Suites in May and nearly again in June, until an alert tenant contacted the media. On May 10, two Longmont Police officers and their drug dog accompanied Suites staff during routine apartment inspections. The Longmont Police Chief called off the June searches after finding out about the searches following our first story. He also said the searches were for training purposes and that even if the dog "hit" on anything, the officer could not proceed. He called for an independent investigation, which was conducted by the Weld County Sheriff's Office. The investigation discovered that at least three apartments were searched without warrants or proper consent.
Officer Michael Marquardt was suspended for three days and Billy Sawyer was suspended for one day.
In November, the city of Longmont reached a $210,000 settlement with four tenants. Those tenants have also given notice to the Longmont Housing Authority that they intend to sue. The Longmont Housing Authority has not commented since.
At one point during the city council meeting, Reis brought up the original searches.
"I'm going to go back to the incident on May 10," said Reis.
But he never brought it up again before the end of the meeting.
He did talk about new security measures at The Suites.
Starting on Jan. 15, the Longmont Housing Authority hired security to be on site when staff is not there; from 5 p.m. to 9 a.m. on weekdays and from Friday at 5 p.m. until Monday at 9 a.m.
When city council was able to start asking questions, councilmember Joan Peck let Reis know that she sought out answers after the warrantless searches and received no information.
"When this first happened -- the incident at the Suites -- I asked to have an update and to have a report as to what's going on, I actually got called by one of the board members and one of the past councilmembers saying it's none of our business, we don't need to know what's going on," said Peck.
Before the meeting, Mayor Brian Bagley told Next that he wanted to ask Reis about concerns current residents have with staff and other tenants in The Suites.
"We need to find out, in general, and tonight's one of those first steps; number one, is there a problem? And if there's a problem, what's being done to address it. Number two, is there not a problem, and if not, why do you think there isn't one? And last, but not least, is there a problem and why aren't you doing anything about it?" said Bagley.
During the meeting, Bagley told Reis that he had heard from three tenants who were fearful to speak out during public comment about current problems at The Suites for fear of eviction.
"What worries me or what has caused me concerned is the perception that these people did not want to speak at the lectern tonight because there's a perception that if they speak out that they'll either be retaliated against or lose their housing," said Bagley.
"Our relationship with the residents around losing their housing is merely, is solely the lease issue in and of itself, it has nothing to do with what people do with their personal lives or their personal time. It's behavioral and maintaining their behavioral obligations under the lease. Beyond that, they just are, I would submit overthinking that we're somehow creating an environment that is not worthy of having free speech. It's just not what we're doing," said Reis.
Speaking of free speech, Reis avoided it when 9News reporter Marshall Zelinger waited to ask him questions in the hallway after his presentation was complete.
"Guys, you sat through a meeting, and I got a lot of council direction, so I really have no additional comments," said Reis.
"I'd love to have a formal opportunity to talk with you," said Zelinger.
As he walked away, someone in the hallway physically prevented Zelinger from walking alongside Reis.
"Could you not elbow me, please," said Zelinger.
"Leave him alone," said the man blocking the way.
"I'm trying to do my job," said Zelinger.
"Well, I'm trying to do mine," said the man.
We found out Wednesday that the man who gave the box-out move with an elbow to the stomach is Darrell Beck. He sits on the board of the Longmont Housing Development Corporation, which owns and manages public housing properties in conjunction with the Longmont Housing Authority.
The LHDC appoints its own board members independent of the city and the LHA.
We called Beck at home, and a woman who answered the phone said he didn't want to talk with Zelinger.
Debby Paris is the President of the LHDC. When asked for her reaction to Beck's behavior, she said she didn't have a comment since she wasn't at the meeting.
Reis refused to answer our questions about the "May 10 incident" and if tenants are being evicted if they speak out against the Longmont Housing Authority.