At one time or another almost everyone has heard of a, “Slumlord.” The term has been around about as long as the explanation mark has been used in English literature. It is slang for a landlord whose rental property to him is about as important as a leaf in a whirlwind. The dictionary defines slumlord as, “A landlord of slum property, especially one who profiteers.”
Now the 21st century has produced in our midst a new breed of floor flushers. Renters beware! These property owners are far more dangerous than a slumlord penny pinching on the plumbing in the upstairs level of a duplex apartment building. These new slackers are called, ”Umlords.” The term is really self-explanatory. For instance, if a tenant’s air-conditioner breaks down in the middle of July, and the tenant reports the problem and the landlord simply says, “Um, um, um…” by all means, that landlord is an “umlord.” Usually the series of ums are followed by a fake cough, a blank stare or a scratch of the head, anything but a solution to the problem. Nowadays with all the modern technology, some of the more experienced umlords are far more organized than the outdated slumlord, mostly known for dodging tenants until the day rent is due.
When a series of ums and fake coughs won’t work, Fontenelle Realty, located at 5405 Ames Avenue, relies solely on the wording of a rental lease agreement in major situations. Often times, the terminology in a lease can be as complicating as reading closed caption in a foreign language. However, nothing should seem foreign when entering into a written agreement. And if a lease does appear too difficult to understand, it is always wise to seek legal advice before signing. But what if a person is uneducated, poverty stricken and/or cannot afford to seek legal advice? When that happens, the average person puts their trust in the landlord, hoping that the landlord is both honest and trustworthy. Dealing with Fontenelle Realty, you will get neither. To keep their rental property prospering, the scam Fontenelle Realty runs on the poverty stricken people of Omaha is that of a well written mobster movie. And just like every good movie has its characters, setting, conflict, theme and plot, off the big screen, Fontenelle Realty has all five key elements, as well as a bunch of drama.
First there is the Mob Boss, Virginia Moon. She is the financial supporter and the brains behind the operation. Virginia retired as the superintendent of the Ralston Public Schools in 2009. In 2010 to 2012 she was the interim superintendent at the Broken Bow Public Schools. In 2014 she was hired as interim city administrator and consultant to the city after the resignation of then, city Administrator, David Varley. A year later, Moon left that position. There was controversy on whether she was terminated by the mayor or she simply misunderstood an email that the mayor had sent her. Nevertheless, she moved on and found another job.
Virginia Moon by many standards is a good woman. And like the old saying goes, behind every good man/woman there is a good counter part. Well in the case of the Fontenelle Realty Mob, behind every good woman there is an amateur golfer with a lot of time on his hands. The golfer with nothing to do would be the second character, the acting boss, Gregory Johnson. Despite Virginia Moon being at least 20 years Gregory Johnson’s senior, the two started dating sometime back in the mid 90s. With Virginia being white and her much younger lover being black, their relationship never really went public in order to protect Virginia’s position. Even then Virginia was bringing home a pretty hefty pay check. In order to keep Johnson’s spending habits to a minimum so they would not end up living in one of their rental units/poor house, she had to come up with a plan where, back then, a young Gregory Johnson could earn his own income. Virginia had decided to pay for Gregory to take a real estate course. After Gregory earned his real estate licenses, they started Johnson and Moon’s Real Estate. Being a real estate agent made Gregory feel as if America had renamed Easy Street, “Johnson Boulevard,” in his honor. Not only did he have his cash cow by the udders, he now had first dibs at a list of available properties. As a team, he would pick out the properties and Virginia would make the purchases. Over time, the two managed to purchase 15 pieces of property under Johnson and Moon LLC. Meanwhile, Gregory had taken up golfing, and developed the art of paying neighborhood drug addicts to do the very little, if any, repairs while he hit a few holes on the golf course.
Although Gregory plays the good guy when showing a unit to potential renters, the real Gregory Johnson comes out once the lease is signed. He becomes live and in living color, a true “Umlord” to the 25th power. And like any other mob boss, Gregory Johnson comes with an enforcer.
The role of the Enforcer is played by Attorney John Chatelain of Chatelain and Maynard. Gregory has been known to brag to tenants that he pays his attorney $200.00 an hour to keep things running smooth while he plays golf. For instance, if a tenant has a major problem and the matter ends up in court, Attorney Chatelain will point out a clause in the lease that he claims relinquishes Gregory Johnson, owner of Fontenelle Realty, of all duties and responsibilities as owner and landlord of his rental properties. On page 4 of the 9 page lease, paragraph number 12, “RESPONSIBILITY FOR DAMAGES: Tenant is responsible for any and all damages done to the property, whether directly involved or not, including, but not limited to damages done by or because of the negligence of Tenant, Tenant’s family, Tenant’s licensees, invitees and guests (including invited or uninvited). Tenant is responsible for all damages done to the property caused by forced entry and/or vandalism since the property is in the control of Tenant. Landlord highly recommends that Tenant acquire and/or maintain adequate liability and personal property insurance protection (renter’s insurance). If the premises are destroyed by fire, rain, wind or other cause beyond control of Landlord, this agreement shall terminate immediately.”
At the time of signing the lease, the tenant is lead to believe that paragraph number 12 is referring to the Tenant being responsible for any and all damages done to the property due to the negligence of the Tenant, Tenant’s family, Tenant’s licensees, and guests. However, Fontenelle’s attorney (the Enforcer) is able to enforce the lease in a court of law.
In March of 2017 a car slid on the ice and crashed into The Heartland News’ building at 5511 N. 30th Street, located on the corner of North 30th and Ellison Street. Nearly two months after the accident, Greg Johnson hadn’t made any repairs to the building, in spite of the fact that his insurance company had paid his claim. Johnson was holding out to find the cheapest contractor for the job, trying to defraud the insurance company so he could pocket as much of the insurance money as possible. Finally, The Heartland News became fed up with their building being secured by a tarp and duct tape, and filed a lawsuit against Fontenelle Realty for negligence and breach of contract. At the hearing, Attorney Chatelain used paragraph number 12 of the lease agreement as a defense and an explanation as to why his client had not made any repairs to the property. Chatelain claimed that his client had no obligation to make the necessary repairs to his own property. The Heartland News countered their defense with law, citing Nebraska Revised Statue 76-1419 (3) and (3)(a), The Landlord and Tenant of a dwelling unit other than a single–family residence may agree that the tenant is to perform specified repairs, maintenance task, alterations, or remolding only if: the agreement of the parties is entered into in good faith and not for the purpose of evading the obligations of the landlord and is set forth in a separate writing signed by the parties and supported by adequate consideration…”
Chatelain claimed that the aforementioned statute is for residential property and not commercial property. Yet, on page 4 of the 9 page residential lease, paragraph number 12 is the same as paragraph number12 of the commercial lease. The reason for that is, Fontenelle Realty’s commercial lease was copied from their residential lease, explaining why the only difference between the two are, one says residential lease and the other says commercial lease. Other than that, the two leases are identical word for word.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Judge Ashford agreed with the attorney. It was as if the judge and Chatelain were old time friends or school buds. Or perhaps like back in the gangster’s days, Chatelain had bought off the judge like Al Capone used to do. Something was fishy. Judge Ashford not only ruled in favor of Fontenelle Realty, he stated that it was indeed The Heartland News’ responsibility to make all the repairs to Gregory Johnson’s building, even though he had collected money from the insurance claim. Judge Ashford also dismissed the case and ordered The Heartland News to pay Gregory Johnson the sum of $3,000.00 for his attorney fee.
The case is still on appeal. After the appeal, The Heartland News will be going to the extreme to do whatever is necessary to have Judge Ashford thoroughly investigated to see what other types of crooked scams he may or may not be involved with.
In spite of the fact that the law clearly contradicts paragraph number 12 of Fontenelle Realty’s bogus lease, Attorney Chatelain still enforces the lease and stands behind it 100%. Such actions would usually be frowned upon by an officer of the court, who has taken a sworn oath to abide by the law. But not when it comes to Attorney Chatelain. Over the years, such immoral behavior has been a pattern of Chatelain’s character. Back in 2010, he founded MSRC (Mayor Shuttle Recall Committee). After a frantic scare over the idea of Dave Nabir taking over the organization and booting him out, on December 8, 2010, Chatelain wrote a lengthy memo exposing Nabir and Nabir’s actions involving the organization. (John Chatelain Statement 120810 www.scribd.com). The next day, December 9, 2010, The Leavenworth Street, commented on the memo with an article entitled, “Why the Chatelain memo?” leavenworthstreet.blogspot.com. The number one assumption, of the three given by The Leavenworth Street, as to why Chatelain wrote such a memo stated, “He (Chatelain) is so caught up in political gamesmanship that he didn’t care if he threatened the entire recall by displaying the dirty laundry for all to see.” The article sparked 31 comments from their readers. One of the readers wrote: Real Demon Sheep 7:47 am, December 09, 2010, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothes.”
Another wrote, Anonymous, 6:25 am December 09, 2010, “Or it could just be John Chatelain is a paranoid control freak and an all around guy who doesn’t play well with others.”
John Chatelain is now the president of MOPOA, Metropolitan of Omaha Property Owners Association. Whether John is a wolf in sheep’s clothing to many, or a paranoid control freak to others, his words and actions are definitely proof that not only is he a guy that doesn’t play well with others, he’s a guy who doesn’t care for others if he doesn’t agree with their lifestyle. In a 2012 MOPOA’s news letter, entitled “In a Letter from The President by John Chatelain, President,” midway through paragraph 4 he states, “LB 912 is a response to a proposal by City Councilman Ben Gray to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people to the list of, protected classes. Obviously we don’t favor discrimination against LGBT people in housing accommodations, but we are against adding more burdensome regulations for our industry.”
In the same news letter, is an article entitled, “Ways to Keep Residents longer. Tips from Mr. Landlord.com.” The article gives 22 ways to keep a tenant as long as possible. But how has
Fontenelle Realty and their clever attorney managed to run a crooked system with an illegal lease agreement and still get new tenants and keep the same old tenants for so long? The answer is downright diabolical and contradicts the 22 ways Chatelain hypocritically embraces publicly.
Part two of the Fontenelle Realty’s scam will be featured in the July issue of The Heartland News.
If you have been wrongly evicted by Fontenelle Realty, and the eviction is still affecting you in any way, contact The Heartland News at 402-208-7533. You may be eligible to be part of a class action lawsuit. More information and a list of dos and don’ts for property owners, pursuant to Nebraska Landlord/tenant act will be posted here on our website.