KELLY’S WORLD: For Bond Properties, It’s Hurry Up And Wait
The welcome mat at the front door of 806 S. Webster Ave. is worn out, its greeting erased by time, grime and sunlight.
I dropped by the two-story house Tuesday morning hoping to speak with the owner. I was tipped that he was in town and stays there when he visits Scranton.
The porch light was on and inside lamps were lit, but the blinds were pulled. The doorbell was silent. Repeated knocks on the front door drew no response.
Ken Bond either wasn’t home or not in the mood for visitors.
The past few days have not been kind to the city’s biggest garbage fee deadbeat. Exposed as an absentee slumlord who owes more than a quarter of a million dollars in delinquent city, school and county taxes and fees, Bond was let go Monday by the powerful Park Avenue law firm that once listed him as a senior partner.
“Mr. Bond’s personal activities described in this weekend’s Times-Tribune are unrelated to the firm. Mr. Bond is no longer employed by Squire Patton Boggs,” a spokesman said in an email to me.
The firm erased all information on Bond from its website. Albany Law School followed suit. Last week, Bond was listed as a faculty member at the upstate New York institution.
Leaders of the Green Ridge, South Side and Hill neighborhood associations showed up at Monday’s Scranton City Council meeting and demanded immediate action on Bond’s problem properties, particularly 616 Cedar Ave. and 1620-1622 Pine St. Councilman Kyle Donahue responded by asking Mayor Bill Courtright’s administration to demolish the buildings under an emergency declaration.
Donahue also called for city inspections of other condemned properties Bond owns under his alter ego, PSN Realty. Councilman Wayne Evans called for the city to garnish rent paid to PSN Realty under the rental registration ordinance. None of Bond’s properties are registered.
Pushed to act, council growled like a pride of lions, but it’s up to the mayor to put the bite on Bond. I spoke with the mayor on Tuesday. He said he wasn’t sure the city could justify an emergency declaration in this case.
“We use that for fires and other situations where the building is about to fall down,” Courtright said. “Believe it or not, these people (property owners) have a lot of rights ... We will do everything that we can possibly do, but we’ve got to do it legally.”
Courtright said he discussed the situation with city solicitor/Deputy Mayor Jessica Eskra. He said she could lay out the administration’s strategy.
Basically, it’s hurry up and wait.
“I haven’t ruled it out as an option,” Eskra said of the emergency declaration. She said it’s unclear “whether or not legally we’re in a position” to demolish the buildings.
The Cedar Avenue property will be “tricky” to take down, she said, because it’s between two other buildings. Eskra said the city is researching a past appeal Bond filed to stop demolition of the Pine Street property. If he secured a bond in that case, the city could claim those funds to pay for demolition, she said.
Eskra said she is also leery of Bond’s municipal law background. He could be a formidable opponent in court, she said. The administration is “exploring whatever options” it has, Eskra said, but will proceed with caution.
Council and the administration are clearly working with different definitions of “emergency.” These properties have blighted their neighborhoods for years, yet city officials are still issuing empty declarations and “exploring options.”
Before leaving 806 S. Webster, I tucked a note for Bond in the mailbox. People who know him say he drives a “beater car.” A run-down Saab was parked out front. Pennsylvania plates.
I swung by later in the day. The note was gone. So was the Saab. The blank slate of the worn-out welcome mat said don’t bother knocking.
CHRIS KELLY, the Times-Tribune columnist, thanks all the subscribers who pushed the Ken Bond story far and wide. You were too loud to ignore. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org, @cjkink on Twitter. Read his award-winning blog at timestribuneblogs.com/kelly.