News Politics __Featured Slider — 15 February 2012
UPDATED: Court dismisses Councilwoman Alicia Hughes’ unpaid rent case

Apartment company threatens eviction

 

By Derrick Perkins

 

An Alexandria General District Court judge dismissed a case involving City Councilwoman Alicia Hughes’ alleged failure to pay rent Wednesday, about 24 hours before her scheduled appearance.

She was originally due in court to fight allegations that she owes her landlord, Realty Management Services, about $2,296 in unpaid rent. Neither the management company nor Hughes would comment on the nature of the dismissal.

The company had also asked Alexandria General District Court to award it $52 in fees and $500 in legal costs. Realty Management Services gave Hughes written notice requesting the unpaid rent — with the threat of eviction — for her West End apartment in December, according to court documents.

The Bethesda company’s lawyers outlined their complaint in an affidavit filed in civil court that same month.

But in a motion to dismiss the case filed in January, Hughes claims to have not known about the discrepancy until she received a notice from the city sheriff’s office. The court sided with Realty Management Services after Hughes missed a hearing earlier this month, documents state.

Hughes fought and reversed the decision several days afterward, despite objections by Realty Management Services, telling officials she had mixed up the date and time of her courthouse appearance.

The city councilwoman and her landlord have a history in court. Records show Realty Management Services filed suits against Hughes several times since she moved into its Yoakum Parkway property in early 2008.

The court ruled in favor of the company later that year, awarding it about $531 and $51 in fees. Months after, the company’s legal representatives were back in court and received about $462, plus fees.

In January 2011, a judge also awarded Realty Management Services about $567, plus fees, stemming from a 2010 suit against Hughes.

Hughes declined to discuss the case but she defended her history of legal trouble in a letter to the editor published Wednesday on alextimes.com.

“Yes, I’d rather be sued and settle a debt before giving a usurious payment inconsistent with an agreement entered for representation … I’ve gotten used to being sued, what I don’t appreciate and do well is lose lawsuits. And I won every Democratic attack launched against me,” Hughes wrote.

Her current legal battle with Realty Management Services is the latest controversy on Hughes’ city council tenure. Residents questioned whether she was eligible to serve on the board after Maryland tax records listing a Baltimore home as her primary residence surfaced not long after her election in 2009, election officials eventually cleared her.

Circuit court records show Holtzman Vogel sued Hughes for $20,000 in unpaid legal fees for counseling her during the controversy. The councilwoman settled out of court with the Warrenton firm in July, according to court documents.

Hughes caught the eye of federal authorities about a year before her settlement with Holtzman Vogel, who investigated whether she violated provisions of the Hatch Act. Dating from 1939, the legislation limits federal employees from political activity, including running for elected office, with an exemption for Alexandria.

Employed by the Patent and Trademark Office at the time, Hughes ran as an Independent — in compliance with the legislation — though with support from Republican organizations. Investigators with the Office of Special Counsel ultimately cleared Hughes of a Hatch Act violation, but said allowing outside partisan groups to campaign for her made the case a “close call.”

In her letter, Hughes pinned the blame squarely on partisan politics. She called on residents to examine her record on council, not her personal life, when passing judgment. She also lambasted fellow city council members for not coming to her defense.

“Let them stand on their records rather than sit quietly on the sidelines while partisan hacks railroad another public servant to gain partisan advantage,” Hughes stated.

 

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