AP Photo / Chicago Sun-Times, Al Podgorski
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, left, stands with tenants of a foreclosed apartment building in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago, from left, Mario Hernandez, Gabriela Maciel, Maciel's son Diego Franco, and Maria Cruz Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008.
What made him a star has now made him a defendant.
With so many rental properties in foreclosure last year, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart for a time halted evictions. It was his contention that many tenants who had been paying their rent were being unfairly removed from their homes, when it was, in fact, their landlords who had not been paying mortgages and were the real culprits.
That firm stance led Time Magazine to honor Dart as a "leader and revolutionary," but Lyons landlord Mike Slinkman says the pace at which tenants are now being evicted is wreaking havoc on his business.
"My contention is that Sheriff Dart has broke the law for political gain," Slinkman says, mincing no words in blaming the sheriff.
Slinkman is so serious that he and his father plan to file a federal lawsuit Wednesday claiming what Dart and a Cook County Judge have done to his business is unconstituitional, that apartment evicitions have slowed to a crawl and that the Judge's order to halt evictions in bad weather has been taken to an extreme.
"It's running us out of business," Slinkman said. "We're on the brink of not making it, in large part because we can't get our product back."
Slinkman and his father own 50 buildings -- roughly 700 units -- in Cook County, but right now they say that so many of their tenants are behind in rent that their cash flow is down $20K to $25K per month.
The apartment owners claim the overcrowded apartment of one deadbeat tenant at their property in Lyons and a BBQ held in the lviing room at another building in Justice are also jeopardizing the the lives of the rest of their tenants.
Applauded nationally for trying to defend the defenseless in a bad economy, Dart takes issue with the lawsuit.
"To say that we're doing anything other than fulfilling the law, and also doing it in a way that is human, is crazy," he said.
Whatever compassion Slinkman lacks for Dart, he claims to share in abundance with his tenants.
"Anytime you have a problem, or whatever, he will work with you," said tenant Michael Stout.
A federal judge will now decide who is in the right.