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By James B. Nelson February 7, 2011

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway says building code violations at his rental properties involve only exterior issues

The condition of rental property owned by Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway has become an issue in the race for county executive. Indeed, Holloway says media coverage of the issue has diminished his chances to win the contest.

Holloway and his wife, Lynda, own 15 parcels in the city, including several apartment buildings on the near north side. Some of the buildings have been the subject of numerous and repeated building code violations.

Holloway was ordered to Milwaukee Municipal Court because a large batch of the violations have not been corrected. That hearing, involving dozens of long-standing violations, is set for March of 2011.

Beyond that, a security guard at one building faces misdemeanor charges for accusing him of threatening a tenant who was at odds with Holloway; another tenant faces charges of trashing that same tenant’s apartment; and reports show more than 800 police calls to Holloway-owned buildings in the past two years.

So ears perked up at a candidate forum at the Marquette University Law School when Holloway -- who was serving as acting county executive at the time -- was asked about his record as a landlord. He compared the dire economic situation facing some of his tenants with the economic woes facing the state and county government, then described the problems.

"The code violations are primarily storm windows," Holloway said, adding "which we take and provide plastic which is better than storm windows."

He added: "And it has to do with tuckpointing, which is all complete." And he said: "Within the households, it’s fine."

Finally, he declared: "I’m saying I have resolved these problems. We are working to resolve these problems."

This one is easy enough to check.

We looked at the city’s online database available through the Department of Neighborhood Services. Each violation for each property is listed. We counted, and then counted again.

At the time he made the statement, Holloway had 200 outstanding violations on eight of his 15 properties. Some of the violations were new -- and written up on Jan. 21, 2011, the same day as the candidate forum.

Do they all relate to exterior issues, such as brickwork, as Holloway claimed?


Some examples of properties and violations listed:

  • 2061 W. Atkinson Ave.: Fire extinguishers, door security hardware, faulty intercom, smoke detectors, carpeting, and damaged ceiling plaster. Other violations for the building include tuckpointing, parking lot repair, windows, screens and downspouts.
  • 2041 W. Atkinson Ave.: Roaches, exit signs, ceiling plaster, floor covering, electrical fixtures, toilet, bathtub replacement.
  • 2022 W. Atkinson Ave.: Windows, screens, outdoor canopy, downspouts, handrails and porch issues were cited. And this mention was included: "Restore ext. door frame to rodent proof condition."

Let’s return to Holloway’s statement.

Facing a date in Municipal Court, Holloway told a forum audience -- including those who watched on TV and YouTube -- that the building code violations still at issue involve the exterior of the properties. "Within the households," he said, "it’s fine." But inspection records paint a different picture: Roaches, exit signs, smoke detectors, ceiling plaster. All of those -- and more -- are interior issues. There’s even a note about faulty fire extinguishers.

That seems appropriate. We rate Holloway’s statement Pants on Fire.

Our Sources

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway, Journal Sentinel Editorial Board meeting, Feb. 1, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Holloway downplays chances, Feb. 2, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Police visit Holloway properties 863 times, Jan. 30, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Holloway security guard charged with four misdemeanors, Jan. 31, 2011

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, One Holloway tenant charged with damaging unit of another, Jan. 26, 2011

Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services database of properties owned by Lee Holloway.

Candidates forum, Marquette University Law School, Jan. 21, 2011

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More by James B. Nelson

Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway says building code violations at his rental properties involve only exterior issues

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