Essaibi George is working for mayor. Her husband, a property developer, has a variety of issues with the city corridor

The commitment of her office, which apparently violates the state conflict of interests law, not only raises questions about the actions of the city councilor, but also underlines the tense entanglements between a leading mayor candidate and her builder husband, with whom the city has long been fighting over his estate practices.

Building at 410 West Broadway in South Boston and the building to the left (west) of it at 400 West Broadway. The two buildings were in a zone dispute.David L. Ryan / Globe Staff

George, who has been a landlord and property developer for decades, has routinely violated city and state housing and building laws and has drawn the wrath of luxury home buyers claiming fraud, low-income tenants he evicted, as well as city inspectors and A Globe investigation found tax collectors who would work for his wife if she were elected.

In a statement, Essaibi George's campaign initially defended its role in the development hearing, saying that "this was not her husband's project" and that "her office acted appropriately on this case". When pressed about the state's Conflict of Interest Act, which extends to neighboring properties, her campaign made a second statement.

"Now that we know about this from your press request, we have dealt with an ethics committee attorney and are working on making all the necessary disclosures," said Essaibi George's campaign in an email.

But Douglas R. George's involvement at City Hall goes far beyond this one incident. The inspectors filed at least four criminal complaints against George or his company in a housing court to compel them to take action against code violations. One concerned unauthorized living space in a basement, another a rodent infestation, a third a ceiling leak; Details on the fourth case could not be determined. The cases have now been settled and have not resulted in charges.

Time and again, George has refuted the claims and ignored the demands of the city. It wasn't until this January – two weeks before his wife started her mayoral campaign – that George addressed 116 late payments for failing to register apartments for at least seven years, paying a total of $ 5,315, according to records. Then, in July, Boston sent him a batch of warning letters for failing to register 14 more units and renew 20 more. In Boston, landlords are required to register their homes every year, which includes a small fee for each unit.

"He's a slum lord, plain and simple," said former tenant James Higgins, whom George urged in 2013 to vacate an apartment in Hyde Park after health struggles and setbacks delayed his rent.

At one point, Higgins fell through the building's ramshackle porch, an issue that Higgins said he had asked George to fix. City inspectors issued George a violation after the incident.

"He treated us like we were scum," said Higgins' wife Kathleen. “We were poor. But we weren't bad people. "

Essaibi George turned down an interview request, but her campaign said she and her staff pulled back every time his specific projects came up for approval.

"As a city councilor for almost six years, she has been steadfast in her commitment to parting with her husband's work," the campaign said in an email. “She will continue to ensure this separation and, as mayor, lead with transparency. "

Essaibi George declined to answer questions about her husband's business in Boston, which state law considers part of their own financial interests. If she were elected mayor, Essaibi told George, her husband would stop doing business that required approval from the city development or building authorities.

Annissa Essaibi George celebrated her 2015 election victory on Boston City Council with her husband Doug George during a party at their Dorchester home.Annissa Essaibi George celebrated her 2015 election victory on Boston City Council with her husband Doug George during a party at their Dorchester home.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Gl

Douglas R. George, who can be seen on his wife's campaign website and who has a history of helping renovate homes in shabby neighborhoods, also declined an interview request and did not answer any questions.

"I am proud of my work in Boston for the past 30 years," George said in a statement. “I have always treated others fairly and with respect. The Boston Globe does not do this with this request. "

In the campaign to become Boston's next leader, affordable housing, gentrification and income inequality have been dominant themes in a city where the mayor has far-reaching power over development.

At least two other top candidates also have ties to development-related companies, including incumbent mayor Kim Janey, whose cousin founded the regional construction company Janey Construction. Councilor Michelle Wu's husband works in the commercial real estate division at East Boston Savings Bank.

Records show that another candidate, former head of economic development John Barros, also received written warnings this month for failing to renew or register two rental properties. The city also sent a warning to Wu for not registering the apartment where her mother lives rent-free and which is part of her two-family home.

But the Globe found that George's track record made him unique as his wife vied for mayor.

"That's a problem," said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who specializes in government and legal ethics. “When you choose someone, choose the luggage they bring. That means the financial interests of your spouse. "

The public opposition from her office to a development that would have violated George's skyline views appears to violate the state's ethics law. State regulations prohibit public service employees from engaging in anything that prejudices their spouse's financial interests, a prohibition that extends to neighboring developments.

At the zone committee hearing, Essaibi George's adviser joined staff from two South Boston councilors – Ed Flynn and Michael Flaherty – to speak out against the project. It is not uncommon for city councils to support or oppose developments, although they do not give an opinion on every proposal.

Essaibi George's assistant, Karen Foley, referred to the Cityside Neighborhood Association in her brief remarks and said she had "sent us e-mails in which you were not involved in the process".

Despite the objection from Essaibi George, the zoning council voted to approve the development, which was supported by the mayor's office. A record of the vote contained a handwritten note that the mayor's office had voted in favor and that Essaibi George and the other councilors had opposed it.

George then sued the building committee and found in the complaint twice that three councilors had rejected the neighboring project – without mentioning that one of the councilors was his wife.

But then George himself was sued. The housing association claimed to be sloppily built. The buyers of three condominiums alleged in a separate lawsuit that they were deceived about their skyline views.

George denied the allegations and that case ended in July 2020 after a confidential resolution, according to attorney Ryan C. Siden, who represented the condo buyers.

"They felt like they were being sold a bag of goods," said Siden, adding, "Dirty is a word for it."

In other instances, George's business has overlapped with his wife, who owns the popular Dorchester knitting shop, Stitch House.

One of his businesses – Stitch House Real Estate, LLC – bears a name similar to his wife's store. And some of his work, including filing more than a dozen eviction lawsuits over the past decade, appears to contradict his wife's election promises.

As a city councilor, Essaibi George worked to fight homelessness and, as mayor, promised to improve the Boston Housing Authority's voucher system for families in need. As landlords, Douglas R. George and his companies have sued in court to evict tenants whose rents are subsidized by the Housing Authority, records show.

In 2019, one of its companies went to a housing court to evict two tenants. George had often late paid city property taxes on one of these units, sometimes incurring small interest charges like $ 26 in 2019 on land due to unpaid taxes.

It wasn't an isolated incident. George routinely pays late property taxes, a lifeblood of the city administration, which makes up 75 percent of Boston's revenue and pays his wife's salary as a councilor. Some of his late payments have accumulated small amounts of interest. Others arrived so late that the city was pursuing the matter in court.

In 2019, the city struck one of George's properties in South Boston with an "instrument of capture" and reserved the right to seize the land for late paying taxes, records show. The City Assessor has fined him at least twice for failing to provide information to help officials determine the value of his property.

Worcester City Inspection Services filed eight housing suits against George and one of his companies from 2013 to 2016 for failing to address code violations, records show. And a Boston tenant filed a civil lawsuit alleging her kitchen ceiling fell and her head was injured, records show. Eventually, both sides agreed to drop the case.

More than a decade ago, George sparked controversy in Dorchester when he built a six-unit home at 96 Neponset Avenue for court records and inspection reports. The city ordered him to remove the illegal work, which he did before receiving an occupancy permit.

After the inspectors left, according to court records, George remodeled the living space and added a lounge that was neither code built nor approved. He marketed one unit as a duplex and advertised the basement as a complete training area with a steam room and billiards room with a wet bar to "hang out" on.

George sold the two units, but after the basement was flooded, city inspectors rediscovered the illegal housing and threatened to prosecute it if it was not removed. One of the condo buyers declined to discuss the issue, citing a nondisclosure agreement that was part of a legal settlement.

The other buyer, a Boston police officer, said the matter had been settled in court and did not detract from his positive view of Essaibi George's candidacy for mayor. The official, Garvin McHale, said he had not settled on a mayoral candidate but heard Essaibi George speak at a candidate forum.

"She said some things that are pretty fascinating to me and pretty positive for the city of Boston," said McHale.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan. Danny McDonald can be reached at da[email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.