Boarding house blues
Mnkandla, Broussard avoid jail by pleading no contest to violating housing codes
By André Coleman 04/17/2014
Rather than face jail time, two local residents accused of operating illegal boarding houses were convicted of several charges last week and will have to pay the city thousands of dollars in fines.
Last Thursday, former Pasadena City Council candidate Nicholas Mnkandla — who dropped out of the council race after the Pasadena Weekly revealed he used several different names and birthdays — pleaded no contest to five counts of operating an illegal boarding house and nine code violations related to maintaining substandard living conditions. His wife, co-owner Eva Meyers, was convicted on one count for operating and illegal boarding and two counts of maintaining substandard housing.
Mnkandla, perhaps better known as the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson, received an 18-month suspended sentence, three years probation, 500 hours of community service, a $500 fine and one day in jail. Meyers must pay a $200 fine, complete 350 hours of community service and also serve one day in jail. The couple must pay the $2,700 costs to the city. However, the couple will not do any time behind bars. Instead, they will be booked and released and granted time served.
Mnkandla and Meyers must also submit to all city inspections and bring the property up to code. Mnkandla and his wife faced a total of 141 counts related to the property, a sober living facility at 280 W. Washington Blvd. Each violation carried a maximum $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
On April 8, Jeanette Broussard, the operator of another illegal boarding house, was convicted of 23 counts regarding operating an illegal boarding house on El Sereno Avenue, which housed 19 people.
As part of her sentence, Broussard will pay more than $2,000 in fines, serve 36 months of probation, not use the property as a boarding house in violation of city codes, and submit to all inspections of the property by the city at any time without notice during the probation.
Broussard must also pay the city more than $3,900 in other costs and still faces eight months in county jail if she commits any violations during her three-year probation.
A former tenant, Garth Allen Robbins faces two felony murder charges and 15 counts of attempted murder for his alleged role in setting a Nov. 1, 2012 fire.
Cliff Juan Clark, 56, and 75-year-old Paul Richard Boyd died in the fire and a third man, Perry Simons, suffered serious burns.
Robbins has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
When contacted in court, an otherwise friendly Mnkanda would not comment for this story.
“Pasadena will not tolerate the owners of illegal, unsafe, and over-crowded boarding houses who believe they can operate with impunity at the expense of public safety,” said City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris. “The city will not allow these property owners to become unjustly enriched while blatantly violating the law and endangering the public.”
The city had received several complaints about Mnkandla’s property on West Washington Boulevard, most related property maintenance issues. The city found that Mnkandla and his wife were operating a sober living facility without a city-issued reasonable accommodation permit.
Among the 10 people Mnkandla said had living at the facility were convicted sex offenders John Gonzalez and Robert Lou King. According to the Megan’s Law database, Gonzalez was convicted in 1991 of committing lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14.
Under the name Nicholas Benson, Mnkandla declared his candidacy for the District 3 seat vacated by Chris Holden but left the race after the Pasadena Weekly reported that he used several aliases, including Benson Mnkandla (his alleged birth name), Nicholas M. Mnkandla, Nicholas Benson Mnkandla and Nicholas Jophat Benson. The paper also disclosed several birthdates attributed to Mnkandla and discovered that he did not possess degrees he claimed he earned at Fuller Theological Seminary.
He was arrested in May on several traffic warrants. Less than a month later, he was arrested by deputies inside the Pasadena courthouse after he allegedly threatened one of his tenants.