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May 21, 2001  •  Post A Comment

KRIV’s heart-wrenching eviction story
Fox-owned KRIV-TV, Houston, broke a story April 29 about an 82-year-old woman who was evicted from her $150,000 home she had finished paying for years ago. The reason Wenonah Blevins was kicked out of her suburban Houston home was she had not paid $814.50 in dues to the Champions Community Improvement Association. She moved in with friends, and her home was sold at a foreclosure auction for $5,000.
KRIV’s news executives were in Austin, Texas, last week along with Ms. Blevins. The Texas Legislature introduced a bill-named after Ms. Blevins-in the House and Senate that will limit the power of homeowners associations. The bill would forbid those associations from selling homes for unpaid dues.
KRIV reported that Ms. Blevins did not open the letters from the association because she thought they were junk mail addressed to her late husband.
“At first we thought it seemed unbelievable-the woman owned her home and she lost her home completely because she was two years behind in her homeowners associations dues,” KRIV News Director Denise Bishop told Electronic Media. “Subdivisions in Houston when they’re built have homeowners associations. No one personally tried to contact her. The constable showed up and they evicted her-they put her, her cat and a few belongings out on the curb. Homeowners associations in Texas have so much power they even take all of your belongings.”
Since KRIV broke the story, reporter Randy Wallace has been on local radio talk shows talking about the piece. The station has done a dozen follow-up pieces and local newspapers have taken up her plight. Viewers became outraged, including a lawyer who took on the case gratis after she saw the piece. The attorney is now suing the association to get the house back.
Damages sought against WPLG reporter
According to the Miami Herald, lobbyist Eric Sisser is seeking a restraining order and monetary damages in excess of $15,000 against investigative reporter Jilda Unruh of ABC affiliate WPLG-TV, Miami. His lawyer filed the suit in Miami-Dade Circuit Court.
Mr. Sisser claims Ms. Unruh surprised him in his hospital room May 8 and began asking him questions about school land purchases and about his work for a health-care contractor that is seeking a district contract. Mr. Sisser told the paper his blood pressure went up to 194/110 and he had to be given a nitroglycerin drip. “What Unruh did was a gross violation of journalistic ethics,” Mr. Sisser said. But WPLG News Director Bill Pohovey told Electronic Media the newspaper’s account was incorrect. “We’re dealing with a lobbyist,” he said. “Jilda went without a camera, without a notepad; she went all by her lonesome.
“She knocked on the door, and he asked who it was and invited her in. He shook her hand and had a warm, happy smile on his face. When she started asking questions, he said, `Get the f– out,’ and she left. End of story.”
Sunbeam owner sues Boston Herald
Sunbeam Television owner Ed Ansin announced last week he was suing the Boston Herald over an unflattering column that ran in the newspaper after his station WHDH-TV, Boston, an NBC affiliate, fired main anchor Kim Carrigan last month. The May 1 column by Margery Eagan, who also has a local radio show, said WHDH staffers described Mr. Ansin as a “despicable, ruthless, egomaniacal, power-mad narcissistic troll in need of psychoanalytic intervention.”
WHDH’s Web site last week posted the letter written by Mr. Ansin’s Boston attorney, addressed to Herald publisher Patrick Purcell, saying the article constitutes “a pattern of libelous and defamatory statements by the Herald against Mr. Ansin.”
The Web site’s preface to the letter reads: “Channel 7 owner Ed Ansin says he’ll take the Boston Herald to court unless the newspaper apologizes to him. Ansin says a lawsuit is his only option after Herald Columnist Margery Eagan penned what he calls an unfounded personal attack … Ansin also says he will donate any court settlement to a children’s charity youth services provider network.”
Mr. Ansin’s attorney Michael Gass told Electronic Media he plans to file the libel suit this week. “He’d like an apology, but I’m not sure he’s going to get it, so the plan is to file suit,” Mr. Gass said.
Karissa S. Wang can be reached by phone at 323-370-2430, via e-mail at kwang@crain.com or by fax at 323-653-4425.