Bed bug whistleblower a pest too says Claremont Housing Authority after eviction dismissed

  • Bed bug
    A bed bug is seen in this undated handout photo courtesy of the University of Sheffield.

    CLAREMONT — After a judge threw out the Claremont Housing Authority’s attempt to evict outspoken resident Craig Avery, the organization is still determining what to do about the man who made its bed bug problem public knowledge.

    “We’re kind of in the process of figuring out what to do,” said Michele Aiken, the executive director of the Claremont Housing Authority.

    Aiken said Avery is a disruptive presence in the Marion L. Phillips apartment complex on Broad Street. He is known to record people in the complex he feels are violating the rules, and he has been aggressive with staff, Aiken said. His reported behavior include taking photos and videos of people from his apartment.

    “He’s actually just very disruptive,” she said.

    Aiken said Avery intimidates staff and residents with his aggressive demeanor, and he is no longer allowed to address staff in the building, but must report all of his issues directly to Aiken.

    “He’s constantly sending me photos of people he considers have violated the rules of the property,” she said.

    Avery, who could not be reached for comment, is also an outspoken advocate at the building, alerting the public of a bed bug infestation two years ago, which, according to court records, lies at the heart of the dispute.

    Aiken said Avery’s outspoken declarations about the bed bugs were harming the peace of mind for the other residents, and violating the rules of the property by taking away other tenants’ enjoyment.

    “It doesn’t hurt me, it hurts the other tenants,” she said.

    Visitors, like family, friends, and even nurses, didn’t want to come to the complex to see tenants after Avery went public with the bed bug issue, she said. In one instance, a tenant could not get her cable television system repaired after Avery told the cable repairman about the bed bugs, Aiken said.

    “The cable guy just left,” Aiken said.

    The apartment complex has been free of bed bugs for at least two years, she said. Aiken said the infestations were a problem all over Claremont at the time.

    The Claremont Housing Authority has twice tried to get Avery evicted after he went public with the bed bug problem. The first try resulted in the agreement that has Avery report his problems directly to Aiken.

    The most recent eviction attempt started last year and ended in evidentiary hearings in the 8th District Court in Claremont. In a ruling on the eviction issued last week, District Court Judge John Yazinski ruled that the Authority violated its own policies, and federal housing laws, when it tried to oust Avery.

    According to the court records, Avery, a 20-year resident, is entitled to a formal hearing before housing authority staff before an eviction can go to court. While Avery requested that hearing, Aiken reportedly told him he could have his hearing before a judge, thus violating the lease agreement and federal law, according to Yazinski.

    “The testimony presented shows that Mr. Avery is something of a busy body and is involved in daily observations of the actions of other tenants,” Yazinski wrote. “He filed numerous complaints with management. There is no doubt that his behavior can be deemed annoying.”

    Yazinski’s ruling does leave open the possibility that the Claremont Housing Authority can still evict Avery.

    “While his behavior may give rise to grounds for an eviction, the (Claremont Housing Authority) must comply with federal law and its own lease terms before competing an eviction action in State court,” Yazinski wrote.

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