Are the ethics of a landlord ‘our’ business?

Question (Note: This is not a rhetorical question): Should an employee of the House of Representatives be held to a higher standard in private business dealings? Is the recent inspection of legislators’ private lives more or less serious than an employee of the Legislature owning a couple of buildings that would earn most anyone else the slumlord epithet?

I’ve seen firsthand the problems at the Westminster Court apartments in Saint Paul when I dropped in to interview this couple a few years ago. Squalor is the perfect word for the “problem property” that every housing expert in Saint Paul has known about for years.

“Your clients paid a lot of money and let the buildings go to heck,” a judge told the landlords at a hearing taking place at this hour (the Pioneer Press’ Fred Melo is tweeting it).

MPR’s Curtis Gilbert got an up-close view of the place for his story today:

The radiators in the unit are unreliable, James said. And that’s just one of the problems. She opens a cupboard, and little brown beetles go scurrying.

“Look. Crawling all out everywhere.”

She charges into the bathroom. The toilet doesn’t flush.

“I gotta flush it like this,” James said, reaching her hand into the toilet tank to pull the drain plug.

The sink is clogged. Cloudy water fills the basin.

“Won’t even go down, this water. It’s been like that for the longest.”

James said she’s reported all these problems to her landlord, but nothing’s been fixed. Late last year, city inspections found some 600 code violations between this building and the one next door.

The families, many of whom spend their days on the edge of homelessness anyway, face eviction because the landlord stopped paying the mortgage and the buildings are in foreclosure.

The “she” in this story is Peggy Chun, who told the Star Tribune that Saint Paul’s housing code “has caused landlords and low-income tenants hardship for many years.”

“She takes the money from the government and she doesn’t do anything,” tenant Adade Kuegah said of Mrs. Chun.

But it’s the he in the story who gives it a different twist, as revealed by the newspaper:

Randall Chun earns $99,400 as a researcher in the state House of Representatives. Neither he nor his wife returned several calls to home and office.

Based on the House Research website, Chun’s area of expertise in his research is services for low-income Minnesotans.

Does it make a difference that he’s an employee of the House of Representatives? Should his side businesses be held to a higher standard? Or is it none of the people’s business?