City Hall has rechecked its records and now says the amount of fines and penalties owed by Seattle slumlord Hugh Sisley comes to $1 million more than originally estimated.
“If the City succeeds in collecting on all counts,” says Kimberly Mills, spokesperson for City Attorney Pete Holmes, “it will be about $3 million.”
Holmes’ office had first pegged Sisley’s tab at $2 million, itself a record for housing violation fines, as reported last week in Seattle Weekly. That story, explaining how the city also planned to foreclose on some of Sisley’s property to collect the amount owed, prompted other media inquiries, Mills said yesterday, and led to a full review of City Hall enforcement and legal records.
Sisley, whose property is concentrated in the Roosevelt neighborhood, has amassed close to 200 code-enforcement cases dating to the 1980s, according to city records. Among them are violations for faulty wiring, unsafe conditions, insect infestation, junk storage, emergency situations, and unfit vacant buildings subject to demolition.
The city has taken Sisley to court more than two dozen times to force his compliance. When he loses, he staves off fines and penalties with lengthy legal appeals. His current fines are mostly the result of two cases he has been appealing for five years, and which were in fact re-argued again yesterday before the state court of appeals.
Mills says two attorneys—one in the city’s Land Use Section and the other in Collections—“recently recalculated the amounts” Sisley owed and added in figures from a third case. They discovered an addtional $983,527 that Sisley owes in penalties, post-judgment interest and recoverable legal costs needed to pay off the three judgments.
The two major cases involve a pair of boarding homes (at 6317 15th Ave. N.E. and 6515 16th Ave. N.E.) where house and land use violations originally led to fines and penalties of $247,000 and $368,000. Sisley had claimed he corrected the violations, but refused to allow inspectors inside the homes to confirm the work, so the city continued to add daily penalties as allowed by law.
The recalculated $3 million figure includes $1,034,000 in penalties for one of those properties, which Sisley and his wife Martha demolished in 2012, and $953,400 for the second property, which remains standing and continues to collect a $600-a-day penalty while Sisley appeals.
Jeff Grant, Sisley’s attorney, says that because his client is now involved in developing new commercial and residential structures in Roosevelt he should no longer be considered a slumlord. “What’s happening now is that progress is being made,” he says. “A revitalization of that neighborhood is under way, with light rail and new, attractive residential buildings. That’s really the story of Hugh and the Roosevelt Neighborhood today. Progress.”