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Magistrate Recommends $19.8 Million Penalty for Asbestos Violations at Troubled Columbus Apartment Complex


(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — In response to arguments by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, a Franklin County Magistrate recommended a $19,840,000 civil penalty against the owners and property manager of an affordable housing apartment complex for violating Ohio’s asbestos regulations, including exposing workers to asbestos danger without their knowledge.

“While not final, this sends a clear message that disregard for safety regulations and court orders will not be tolerated in Ohio,” Yost said. “We will continue to vigorously pursue justice and hold accountable those who prioritize profit over the well-being of our communities.”

The recommended penalty stems from work done at Sawyer Towers, a 400-unit complex on the near east side of Columbus. This case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency in March 2023.

Franklin County Common Pleas Court Magistrate Jennifer D. Hunt recommends imposing the penalty against Boruch Drillman and Paxe Latitude LP, a limited partnership that Drillman fully controls, and a property management company, Aloft Management LLC.

In August 2021, Paxe bought the Sawyer Towers complex, which needed extensive repairs and maintenance. The situation was so bad that the City of Columbus repeatedly cited the complex for extensive health code violations, even taking Paxe and Drillman to court.

During the 2022 Christmas season, in an extreme cold spell, water pipes burst and flooded the buildings, forcing city officials to immediately evacuate residents from more than 160 apartments. The tenants left with nothing more than what they could carry, leaving most of their belongings in the buildings.

Paxe, Drillman and Aloft hired contractors to fix the water damage and remove the mess – which included soaked drywall, carpets and ceiling tiles. But the owners and property management company ignored the asbestos abatement plans they had on file, failed to inform contractors of the potential danger or supply the contractors’ employees with protective gear and caused significant harm to the environment and endangered residents. The cleanup and restoration work led to the release of asbestos fibers throughout the complex, preventing the return of residents and contaminating the belongings that tenants had been forced to leave behind.

In addition, Paxe, Drillman and Aloft also neglected to secure the apartment complex after the tenants were evacuated, further spreading asbestos due to vandalism.

In setting the recommended penalty, the court considered the extensive harm caused by the asbestos to contractors’ employees. It also weighed the harm suffered by the community, the financial benefit received by the companies for avoiding appropriate remediation and the defendants’ flagrant disregard for safety regulations and court orders.

Hannah Hundley: 614-906-9113


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