A Lake Elmo City Council member who is running for mayor says a housing nonprofit defamed him by naming him in its lawsuit over a set of rental properties he owns in St. Paul.
“The suit is 100 percent inaccurate and being done for political reasons,” said Justin Bloyer, declining to comment further based on his attorney’s advice.
Ramsey County District Judge Lezlie Ott Marek has taken his defamation claim under advisement and is expected to issue a ruling. An attorney for the West Side Community Organization (WSCO) of St. Paul said it had no comment on pending litigation.
Bloyer, an airline pilot and eight-year veteran of the Lake Elmo council, was sued in June by WSCO for what it said was interference in its efforts to help his tenants fight for their property rights. The suit alleges that Bloyer, operating as Quetico Property Management, didn’t adequately maintain seven West St. Paul rental properties.
Bloyer is facing Charles Cadenhead, a transportation engineer and Planning Commission member, in next month’s mayoral election.
WSCO organizers started to meet a year ago with tenants who reported loss of heat, water shut-offs and pest infestations, according to the suit. Some called Bloyer a “slumlord.”
According to the suit, part of the ceiling collapsed in an eight-unit apartment building at 654 Stryker Av. due to mold and water leakage; it was repaired about two weeks later. A 13-unit apartment building at 166 George St. lacked proper screens and a water shut-off notice, and tenants there said homeless people often slept in the stairwell because the entrances weren’t secured with locks.
When WSCO organizers tried to meet with tenants at one property they were stopped by Bloyer’s on-site property manager, according to the suit, and berated for “messing with” the tenants. The property manager said Bloyer’s tenants “lived in filth like pigs” and were “bringing in the cartel,” and threatened to start evicting those who spoke to the WSCO, according to the suit.
As the organizers walked away, the property manager grabbed one of them and took a letter about an upcoming meeting with tenants out of their hands, the suit alleges. The manager then filed a police report accusing one of the organizers of assaulting her that day, a charge the WSCO refuted in its suit.
“Unfortunately, Bloyer’s threats, intimidation and false accusations have worked,” the suit says.
“The tenants who had previously expressed concern about Bloyer’s ‘slumlord’ rental operation have gone silent, and WSCO’s attempt to organize the tenants at Bloyer properties have reached a roadblock.”
The suit alleges one violation of the state’s Human Rights Act, arguing that Bloyer and Quetico’s actions constitute discriminatory practice for interfering with WSCO’s efforts to help the tenants seek their rights.
WSCO formed in the 1970s as a neighborhood effort to prevent the closing of a local high school.
The nonprofit community organization is also the Planning Council for St. Paul’s District 3, and makes a high priority of tenant organizing against housing discrimination.
Bloyer was censured by the Lake Elmo City Council in 2016 amid allegations he had behaved improperly when raising questions with a city staffer about utility projections.
He denied those charges and was easily reelected that fall.