IMAGINE THE outcry if it were reported that Mayor Anthony Williams or a member of the D.C. Council owned apartment buildings in the District in which rooms were overrun with mice, water bugs and roaches, where holes as big as fists can be found in bathrooms, and where tenants complain about cracked and broken windows and leaky ceilings. Renita Dyson of 1628 E St. NE lives in such an apartment in disrepair, and it is owned by a top District of Columbia official. Speaking of her landlord, who owns five residential buildings cited for housing code violations, Ms. Dyson does not mince words. "He's a slumlord," she declares. And her landlord? He is Eugene Kinlow, a member of the congressionally created, presidentially appointed D.C. financial control board.
Mr. Kinlow, who with his wife owns three dwellings in Southeast, one in Northeast and another in Northwest, has been cited by the city seven times -- including four times between July 14, 1998, and June 5 of this year -- for plumbing problems and leaky ceilings. He admitted as much to Post reporter Cheryl Thompson, who wrote on Mr. Kinlow's life as a landlord in last Saturday's Post. Ms. Thompson observed firsthand the scampering rodent, the leaky ceiling and the holes in the front door of one apartment that landlord Kinlow had not repaired. But Mr. Kinlow is accused of more than being lax in the upkeep of his buildings. Tenants also charge that he makes promises to fix things -- promises that he doesn't keep.
Mr. Kinlow regards himself as having performed a public service by keeping his apartments on the market. He thinks tenants should be grateful for what they're getting, given what he charges. "If I was paying three hundred and something a month for an apartment, I wouldn't expect it to be perfect," he said. "They know they're getting a deal, and they know what the deal is."
Were Mr. Kinlow an elected official or a mayoral appointee, there is little doubt he would be on the hot seat today. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and council oversight committees would be all over him. But what recourse does the public have when the housing-code violator and alleged slumlord is a White House appointee who is accountable to no one in the District of Columbia? Mr. Kinlow shouldn't get a pass because the city can't fire him. The mayor should immediately order a detailed inspection of all of Mr. Kinlow's housing properties, and a report of findings should be sent to President Clinton and relevant congressional committees and released to the public. Then Mr. Kinlow will know better what the deal is.