Citizens concerned about city's theft of private homes
KNOXVILLE, TN - Parts of Old North Knoxville are reported to be high crime areas, but residents claim the most hardcore thieves in the area are city officials and greedy real estate investors. According to some of the neighborhood residents, elderly homeowner Dan Hale recently lost his old victorian home at "40 E. Scott when the City of Knoxville seized it in an eminent domain action.
Eminent domain actions are usually reserved for seizing private land for public good. The public didn¹t benefit from the action, but a local real estate attorney allegedly did.
Real estate attorney Christene Dumer reportedly acquired the home in a contract with the city for $17,000. At the time the city took the land, Hale allegedly had a signed contract in hand with an offer of $50,000 for the property from a local developer. The elderly Hale, who, according to friends and neighbors has a diminished mental capacity, was evicted. His personal belongings were removed so Dumer could move into the home.
Hale had grown up in the house. His parents had inherited it in 1914 from their parents. "He¹s lived there off an on his whole life," a neighbor said. Neighbors say they¹re worried about their own homes now that they¹ve seen two of their neighbors allegedly scammed by city officials. "This is what happened on East Anderson with code officials condemning, buying and selling, and now it¹s happening here with Dan," a neighbor said. "Of course we¹re worried. We don¹t know who they¹re going to target next." With more than a dozen old victorian homes in various stages of remodeling and disrepair in Old North Knoxville, residents claim it¹s anyone¹s guess who will be next on the hit list.
A $15-million lawsuit against the city for alleged fraud in a condemnation and resell case goes to federal court next year. Residents say they¹re watching that suit closely.
Neighbors say many of the same players in that case are involved behind the scenes in getting homes condemned so investors, < including some Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) members and at least one city council person < local contractors and even local realtors and judges can benefit. "Why do you think they filed it in federal court?" one elderly man laughed. "They don¹t trust the state judges Ocause they¹re in on it." He declined to name any of the judges he felt were involved, but said the corruption reaches higher than most folks would believe.
"It¹s big and it¹s organized," said another resident. "They¹ve even formed an LLC for the sole purpose of targeting deteriorating properties. "They take turns calling in to the city codes office to report them, then buy from the owner when property values drop."
Meanwhile, neighbors say Hale has moved out of town and is being evaluated medically in hopes the courts can appoint a guardian to help him better manage his affairs < including possible legal action against Dumer and the city for the transfer of his property.
"He didn¹t want to lose his house. None of us do. But what can you do? These people work for the city, they¹re lawyers and politicians. How do you fight the very people who are supposed to protect you from this sort of thing?" a neighbor said.
"Don¹t use my name," he asked. "Or my house would be next on their list." n Next Week: How Dan Hale lost his house.
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