City investigates inspections-ethics allegations

Wichita's city manager has asked an internal auditor to review housing violation cases involving four property owners, including state Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, after a former inspector expressed concerns about special treatment for those with "political capital."

Former housing inspector Nolan Dealy said in an e-mail to City Manager Robert Layton that he appreciated Layton "looking into the ethical issues I raised that involved how specific cases are handled for a 'select' few with some political capital at their disposal" in the city's Office of Central Inspection.

"The City of Wichita owes it to the average citizen to hold OCI management to an ethical standard that is equal for all people that have dealings with OCI," Dealy wrote in a follow-up e-mail to Layton and Wichita City Council member Sue Schlapp after he met with Layton about his concern. The city laid off Dealy last year.

Layton said Monday that he had ordered an investigation into the allegations.

Faust-Goudeau has said she did not request special treatment. Dealy asserts the city gave her a pass because of her status and work as a legislator.

Kurt Schroeder, superintendent of the Office of Central Inspection, has denied that Faust-Goudeau received any special treatment.

Layton said it was his job to "ensure we are above reproach in the way we handle cases. If I wasn't concerned about the allegations, I wouldn't have (the cases) reviewed. That doesn't mean they have merit."

The Eagle found in July that of 38 houses then considered neglected in a roughly three-block area around the home owned by Faust-Goudeau on East Eighth Street, only fines for her property were deferred by the city.

Faust-Goudeau said any resident can ask for more time to make repairs.

In July, she said she had been emotionally unable to deal with the house because her mother lived there before she died in 2001. The home had been in both their names.

Faust-Goudeau continues to owe the city for fines assessed on the house at 2641 E. Eighth St.

She said Monday that she sent a payment for $500 to a collections agency on Sunday and that she plans to sell the house, which has had code enforcement cases against it for several years.

She said The Eagle's reporting about problems with the house, registered in 2007 with the city as a neglected building, had spurred her to sell it so she can focus as a legislator on "real issues" facing the state.

The Eagle first reported in July that the city had opened three housing and property violation cases against the home but had agreed to defer fines and give Faust-Goudeau more time to bring the house up to code.

One case was closed in June 2009. Schroeder said there were two ongoing enforcement cases against Faust-Goudeau's property: a housing code case and a neglected-building case. The second required registration of the property with a plan to make improvements. A fire damaged the home in 2007.

He said in an e-mail that Faust-Goudeau "registered the property with a plan of action but had not (and still has not) fully complied with that approved plan."

The ordinance allows for a $250 fine every 90 days. So far, the city has assessed $1,250 in civil penalties, of which Faust-Goudeau has paid $250, Schroeder said. Of the remaining $1,000, $750 has been turned over to collections, he said, "with the other most recently assessed $250 fee soon to be turned over to collection if not paid by early April."

Faust-Goudeau said she tried last week to pay the fines in person at City Hall but was told she had to deal with the collections agency.

Schroeder said that Faust-Goudeau "has made some repair progress on the remaining exterior minimum housing code items over the past few months."

The inspector currently assigned the case changed the status from "notice of violation" to "notice of improvement," records show.

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