The legal showdown between landlord Dario Pini and City Hall over the squalid conditions of Pini’s vast rental empire has come to approximate water torture. City Attorney Ariel Calonne repeatedly told Judge Colleen Sterne last Friday he was not the least bit interested in Pini’s mental state as he berated the landlord for housing conditions that Sterne deemed a health threat to tenants. Pini’s attorney Paul Burns repeatedly blamed City Hall for refusing to give Pini the permits required to bring his units up to code. At one point, Judge Sterne tersely cut off Burns with “Mr. Burns, I don’t want to hear another word about whether the city is being the Big Bad Wolf.”
Last month, Sterne ruled that seven of Pini’s downtown rental properties needed to be taken away from his control and placed with court-appointed receiver William Hoffman. In court, Hoffman explained he’d gotten off to a slow start and that Pini had interfered as he tried to change locks at one property. Hoffman added that Pini failed to provide him any financial records. And most important, he charged, there was no money in the bank accounts.
During the trial leading up to the receivership, Pini said he had $10 million in cash to help get the job done. Initially, Hoffman said, Pini had offered only $7,000 to conduct inspections of all seven properties, which he said were riddled with bedbugs, cockroaches, and trash. Since then, Hoffman said he’s collected $180,000 in rent from Pini’s tenants, enough to get started but not enough to commence repairs.
Burns said as soon as Hoffman submits a detailed request, Pini would evaluate the reasonability of it. Judge Sterne said she’s expecting from Hoffman a detailed description of needed work, a timeline, and anticipated cost. “We’re going to work toward success rather than continued bickering,” the judge said.