Lowering the boom
Former Pasadena council candidate one of two landlords facing multiple criminal charges filed by city prosecutor
By André Coleman 08/01/2013
The Pasadena City Prosecutor’s Office has filed a total of 277 misdemeanor criminal charges against the operators of two allegedly illegal boarding houses, one currently the home of two registered sex offenders, the other the site of an early morning fire last year that claimed two lives.
One of the properties is a transitional housing facility owned by Nicholas Benson Mnkandla and his wife Eva Meyers.
Mnkandla, who once called himself the Rev. Dr. Nicholas Benson, was a former Pasadena City Council candidate. However, he dropped out of the March District 3 council election after the Pasadena Weekly reported that he had used several aliases and birthdates and did not possess the academic credentials that he said he had earned.
Mnkandla and his wife face a total of 141 counts relating to alleged violations of city codes. The owner of the second property, Jeanette Broussard, is charged with 136 similar counts in relation to operating a boarding house that she owns, which burned down in November, killing two tenants. Each count carries maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Although the charges are likely to be reduced, things could get worse for Mnkandla and his wife before they get better, said City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris.
“Each day they continue to operate is a new violation against them,” Bagneris told the Weekly. “We want them in compliance with the code.”
Mnkandla and his wife, who live in Altadena, could not be reached for comment. Mnkandla listed the transitional housing facility in Northwest Pasadena as his home address during the election, a possible violation of state election law.
Broussard, also a resident of Altadena, became angry when contacted Monday by a reporter seeking comment.
“Why should I tell you my business?” Broussard said.
“Stay out of my business,” she demanded before hanging up the phone.
According to the Pasadena Sun, Broussard, owner of several properties in Pasadena and Los Angeles, sued the city of Pasadena in 2010 after officials forced her to shut down a boarding home she owned in the 600 block of Del Monte Street, less than a mile from the El Sereno Avenue home that burned down in November. In 2009, city officials had charged Broussard with code enforcement violations after that home caught fire on May 29, 2009, resulting in the death of one tenant. Criminal charges were later dropped after Broussard agreed to comply with city regulations.
Killed in the Nov. 1 fire, which was allegedly set by tenant Garth Allen Robbins, were Paul Richard Boyd, 75, and Cliff Juan Clark, 56. Clark’s children, Cliff Juan Clark Jr. and LaTiesha Renay Clark, have filed a claim for damages against the city in relation to the fire, alleging the city knew about the residence’s problems but failed to take corrective action.
Broussard will be arraigned Aug. 7 in Pasadena Superior Court.
Mnkandla and Meyers will be arraigned Aug. 20.
“Landlords need to understand that they have a responsibility to their tenants and this city for safe living conditions,” Vice Mayor Jacque Robinson said of Broussard. Robinson’s District 1 includes Broussard’s El Sereno home. “The actions that are being brought against her are a direct result of her providing deplorable living conditions that resulted in death.”
The city’s case against Mnkandla, who along with his wife owns the Back to Life transitional housing facility in the 200 block of West Washington Boulevard, is the latest in a series of brushes he has had with local law enforcement.
Mnkandla was arrested on May 13 after he allegedly took the side of one of the registered sex offenders living at Back to Life who had gotten into an argument with female tenant Theresa Naty. When officers showed up at the home, Naty told them of a Pasadena Weekly article reporting on Mnkandla’s many aliases, which included Benson Mnkandla (his alleged birth name), Nicholas M. Mnkandla, Nicholas Benson Mnkandla and Nicholas Jophat Benson. Officers read the story, ran the names through the police computer and then arrested Mnkandla after learning he was wanted on two separate $25,000 traffic-related warrants.
Roughly a month later, Mnkandla reportedly spotted Naty outside the Pasadena Courthouse, where she had just filed a restraining order against her landlord. Mnkandla apparently saw Naty at a bus stop, approached her, and then reportedly said in front of a witness, “You are going to disappear,” according to Naty.
Naty said she then went back inside the courthouse and told sheriff’s deputies what had happened. They then called the Pasadena Police Department, located directly across the street from the courthouse, and Mnkandla was arrested again, this time for allegedly making terrorist threats and violating a restraining order.
Now free on bail, Mnkandla is set to be arraigned Aug. 9 on those charges.
Among the 10 people Mnkandla said were 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. King was convicted of oral copulation by force or fear with a minor under 14. The database did not list a conviction date for King.
“We had an existing code compliance complaint on the property,” said Pasadena Code Compliance Manager Jon Pollard. “The complaint was for property maintenance issues and running a sober living facility without a reasonable accommodation permit.”
Such a permit allows a boarding home to operate in areas zoned as low-density residential, like the one where Back to Life is located. The facility is less than a mile away from Cleveland Elementary School, a short walk from La Pintoresca Park and a block away from the Kings Villages housing complex.
Naty — who still lives at Back to Life — told the Weekly that she was aware of the latest case involving Mnkandla and Meyers, but most of the other residents living there did not know what was going on.
“Most of the people in the building don’t know anything about the case, but we are going to have to move,” Naty told the newspaper. “Everyone has to get out.”