Eureka's most notorious slumlord took the stand this morning to testify in his own defense while an attorney for the city of Eureka peppered him with questions about mold, cockroaches, faulty plumbing and overdue repairs at several of his properties.
Alternately nervous, evasive and defiant, Squires claimed to have completed most of the repairs necessary to get back in compliance with building codes at the 26 properties at issue in the case. He pleaded ignorance and confusion about many of the city's permitting requirements and repair requests.
At his own attorney's advice, Squires last week refused to allow city inspectors on his properties to see whether or not the repairs had actually been completed. Squires said he refused access because he respects his tentants' rights and privacy.
The city's battles with Squires date back more than a decade. (See a selection of previous Journal coverage here, here, here and here.) Last January, the city, along with the county District Attorney's office, sued Squires and his wife, alleging "ongoing and pervasive" code violations. The city is seeking permanent injunctions on properties owned by the couple.
Representing the city of Eureka was attorney Dean Pucci with the Roseville law offices of Jones & Mayer. He asked Squires to specify the repairs he'd completed -- and the permits he'd requested -- at one Eureka property after another: a Victorian at 119 West Sixth St., bungalow apartments at 2927 through 2941 California St., a subdivided house at 1637 Third St. and more.
Squires claimed the city initially denied him permits because six of his properties had been placed in receivership. The order placing those properties in the hands of a third party was stayed following an appeal. He also claimed to have completed many repairs without getting new permits or follow-up inspections.
Pucci challenged him. "You and your handymen are not certified building inspectors, right?" he asked. "You testified to remedying literally hundreds of violations since the beginning of this case, yes?" Squires confirmed that he had. "How can you say those [repairs] comply with state and local law?"
Squires replied, "I have years of experience and a little common sense." If a faucet needed to be repaired because it didn't have cold water, for example, he could simply turn it on and check it to see if it worked, he said.
In a surreal exchange, Pucci asked Squires to look at one of several binders filled with pictures taken at his properties. He directed Squires to look at pictures taken recently at the Blue Heron Lodge on Broadway, where the city had previously identified mold and water damage. He asked Squires to look at a picture of a wall and shower tiles and say whether or not he saw water damage.
"I don't see water damage," Squires replied. "I see filth."
Pucci also asked Squires about evidence of cockroaches at the Blue Heron Lodge. Squires admitted that there have been cockroaches in some of the units, but he said the presence of the insects "depends on the cleanliness of the tenants."
During a break in the proceedings, Squires told the Journal that some tenants make complaints as "an attention getter ... to try to get free rent." And he said that the city's case against him is based on retaliation for his own suit against the city alleging harrassment.
Back in court, Pucci suggested it's the other way around. "Isn't it true that every time the city initiates legal action against you, you turn around and file a complaint against the city?"
After some back and forth, Squires responded, "There were some legal proceedings, yes."
Puccie also asked Squires why he hasn't completed repairs he promised 19 months ago at a preliminary injunction hearing. Squires said they're almost done.
Pucci completed his cross-examination of Squires before the hearing ended at noon.
Both Pucci and Squires' attorney, Bradford Floyd, said they expect the trial to wrap up by Thursday.