Recent media reports are shining a bright light on the right-wing plot to run a slumlord lawyer for District Attorney in Milwaukee County.
Verona Swanigan has been exposed for her shady work, handling nearly 300 eviction lawsuits on behalf of one of Milwaukee’s most notorious slumlords and throwing hundreds of families into the streets.
The recent book, “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” put a national spotlight on Milwaukee for the eviction crisis that is sweeping our city and how housing impacts poverty. The book showed how the most vulnerable to slumlord abuse are low-income women with children.
The book focused on Milwaukee eviction rates in the private rental market to demonstrate how housing impacts poverty. It was released two months ago to national praise and attention, and documents the path of various families spread out throughout the city of Milwaukee whose stories all end the same: evicted.
The problem with evictions doesn’t just start with the tenants living in impoverished areas. Landlords often deemed ‘slumlords’ for their neglect in caring for properties or paying taxes prey on an already vulnerable population; this, compounded by the fact that people facing eviction often lack quality legal representation, leaves tenants facing an uphill battle against well-funded lawyers working for the slumlords.
But for slumlord lawyer and Milwaukee County District Attorney candidate Verona Swanigan, none of that matters. Between 2012 and 2013, Swanigan filed 296 eviction cases in small claims court on behalf of notorious ‘slumlord’ Elijah Mohammad Rashaed, also known as Dennis Bell.
Rashaed has been connected with 670 rental units in Milwaukee, owes nearly a half a million dollars in delinquent taxes, and has nearly 40 properties that require monthly inspections due to numerous city code violations and a failure to repair those violations.
In her campaign against incumbent DA John Chisholm, Swanigan calls herself a “conservative democrat.” But media stories and her campaign finance reports shows she is working directly with Republican allies of Governor Scott Walker like Craig Peterson, who runs various right-wing dark money groups that are designed to take over Milwaukee from within.
Swanigan confirmed during her time representing Rashaed and his multiple LLC holdings, she learned he had “seriously bad practices” but continued to file evictions on his behalf anyway. In some cases, the amounted owed was as little as $130, but she still worked to put poor people on the street.
DA John Chisholm criticized Swanigan for not dropping Rashaed a client sooner. “Good prosecutors have to be able to make a judgment call on who’s good or bad faster than their 296th case. The contrast in this race couldn’t be clearer. I have spent my career protecting women and children, not exploiting them.”
Swanigan is facing Chisholm in the August 9 primary election.