Settlement in Colonial Village manager suit

By: Nathan Donato-Weinstein Gold Country News Service
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The manager of several low-income housing projects in Roseville and Auburn will be restricted from having direct contact with tenants in matters of enforcement of house rules, lease violations and other regulations under a settlement agreement reached recently with a group of tenants. Mark Sheppard, who manages the housing program for Roseville-based Project Go Inc., will also effectively continue to abide by the terms of a preliminary court-ordered injunction in 2006, according to the settlement. Project Go’s property management division oversees several apartment complexes in south Placer for low-income seniors, including the Maidu Village I, II and III. Project Go also manages the low-income Colonial Village complexes in Roseville and Auburn. The settlement was reached this week by Project Go and Legal Services of Northern California. It stems from a November 2006 suit nonprofit Legal Services brought against Sheppard in Placer County Superior Court on behalf of three residents of Maidu Village III, a low-income senior apartment complex in Roseville. All are disabled seniors receiving Section 8 federal housing assistance. The residents, one of whom has since dropped out of the suit and is pursuing separate litigation, claimed a “continual practice of abusing, cursing, threatening, intimidating, deceiving, and harassing tenants without just cause and in violation of numerous laws and contracts,” among other allegations. The plaintiffs said the harassment partly stemmed from inquiring about maintenance issues. Under terms of the settlement, neither Sheppard nor Project Go admits any wrongdoing. But the company must provide employees other than Sheppard to address resident complaints, lease issues and eviction actions. “The plaintiffs felt based on their experiences that as long as Mark Sheppard continued to interact with them, there would continue to be problems,” said Herb Whitaker, managing attorney for Legal Services, adding the new procedures would apply to residents of all 800 units of Project Go-managed properties. In addition, the settlement establishes an alternative dispute resolution procedure in grievance matters. Project Go will also pay the plaintiffs’ legal fees, according to the settlement. “I feel that it’s a very positive outcome because our No. 1 objective was safety and security for the tenants, and I think this agreement goes a long way toward accomplishing that,” Whitaker said. An attorney for Project Go called the settlement a fresh start for Sheppard and disgruntled tenants. “It shows Project Go and Legal Services of Northern California and some of the tenants really, finally got down to cooperating with one another,” attorney Marty Carr said. “It should minimize the chance a future concern ends up rising to level of a lawsuit.” Carr also said his client wasn’t bothered by the agreement to keep Sheppard out of certain tenant matters and would remain busy in other aspects of running Project Go operations. “It made plaintiffs feel good, but it’s also good for Project Go,” Carr said. “It’s a piece he was happy to let go of, being called upon to mediate these issues.” However, the settlement does not bar Sheppard from all tenant matters; he can still be involved in certain situations if a tenant requests him, attorneys said. Project Go must also make tenants aware of the availability of legal services during eviction actions, according to the settlement.