Scarcelli’s firm takes heat in Mississippi

Housing slump
By COLIN WOODARD  |  February 9, 2011

Former gubernatorial and prospective US Senate candidate Rosa Scarcelli has had a lot of bad press of late, courtesy of her husband's role in creating an anonymous website that sought to smear another Blaine House candidate, Eliot Cutler. Now the company Scarcelli runs is being pilloried in southwestern Mississippi, apparently on account of the actions of her mother.

Last week, the Natchez Democrat reported that Stanford Management — Scarcelli's Portland-based property-management firm — had abandoned two low-income apartment buildings in the city, leaving them in what a local alderman described as a "deplorable" condition. Residents of the Brumfield School Apartments told city officials that trash had stopped being collected weeks ago, while city officials said Stanford had a past history of failing to pay bills for garbage collection, heating, and air conditioning.

"When it first opened it was a really nice and state-of-the-art, and it is just been completely run into the ground," local alderman Tony Fields told his colleagues.

Stanford's buildings, it turns out, have been under scrutiny in Natchez for several years, with the 29-unit Brumfield property having devolved into what city code inspector Willie B. Jones called "terrible shape" with "mold, mildew, and no heat" and damage left over from Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Minutes of the city council describe repeated communications between city officials and Stanford, which reportedly reneged on promises to fix the problems in short order.

"We don't need to be giving them more extensions. We need to start putting fines on these people," Jones said at a meeting in June 2010. "If we start fining them $1,000 a day, they're still lucky we're not fining them more for the problems over there."

Fields — who didn't return our phone calls — added that Scarcelli's company had "burned a lot of bridges" in Natchez by paying contractors late, or not at all. The building houses low-income single mothers, some of whom complained to the city of security problems and of terrible stenches coming from un-rented units.

We reached Scarcelli, who confirmed that her company had terminated its management contract for the Natchez properties at the beginning of the month. But she says her company is itself among the victims, having not been paid for its services by the buildings' actual owners, including her own mother, Stanford founder Pam Gleichman, whom Scarcelli took over from in 2005.

"At the end of the day we can only do so much without resources if the property owner is unwilling or unable to pay," Scarcelli told us, saying the accumulated debt owed to them for the Natchez properties exceeded $150,000. "We'd paid the payroll and the health benefits of our staff there out of our pocket. For a while we even wrote checks from taxes or insurance. We just couldn't do it anymore."

She said both properties were initially developed by her mother, who is the general partner of the separate limited partnerships that now own the buildings. She said various efforts to resolve the situation with her mother had been unsuccessful.

Gleichman is a prominent figure who has served on the boards of the Finance Authority of Maine, the National Housing Rehabilitation Association, Thomas College, the Waynflete School, and the University of New England. The website of her firm, Landmark America LLC, touts the renovation of dozens of properties of which she is a part owner including elderly housing in Brunswick, Bowdoinham, Farmington, Dixfield, Fryeburg, Rumford, Bar Harbor, Madawaska, and Presque Isle, as well as the buildings in Natchez and in other states.

Reached Tuesday for comment, Gleichman said only this: "There are a number of issues between the management company" — Stanford — "and the owners, and I don't want to discuss that in the press."

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  Topics: This Just In , Mississippi, Hurricane Katrina, University of New England,  More more >
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