Heard on the Hill

Rohrabacher Comes Clean About Messy Housing Dispute

(Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is not only confident he will be vindicated in an ongoing legal tussle — a rather nasty affair in which a former landlord claims that the California Republican and his family caused tens of thousands of dollars in property damage — he’s fairly certain he brought it on himself by serving in the public eye.

“If I wasn’t a member of Congress, no one would pay attention to this at all,” he said of the dirty laundry being aired by Robert Polyniak regarding a home he rented to the Rohrabachers a few years back.

“We enjoyed our stay there. But we did not trash the house,” Rohrabacher assured HOH.

As chronicled by the OC Weekly, the spat erupted after Polyniak retook possession of a rental property and  discovered the reportedly disturbing conditions within (“Walls inexplicably contained odd holes, nail polish, wax and some smelly substance that may have been feces.”) and elected to withhold the $6,700 security deposit originally plunked down by the 13-term lawmaker.

Since then, both sides have taken legal action against each another.

“I think the landlord felt that I would not sue him in court because I might get a bad news story out of it,” Rohrabacher said of his decision to battle on. “[But] I am not a wealthy person. A $7,000 deposit means a lot to my family.”

A review of Rohrabacher’s latest financial disclosure forms, which estimates the lawmaker is in the hole to the tune of around $400,000, seems to corroborate his back-of-the-envelope assessment.

Growing Pains

Per Rohrabacher, after several years of conflict-free relations, Polyniak spontaneously ordered him out.

“The landlord gave us 30 days to vacate the house,” he said.

Initially, Polyniak wanted the family gone by July 3, 2012. Rohrabacher said he asked for 60 days so that he could take care of everything during Congress’ regularly scheduled August recess. When Polyniak shot down that plan, Rohrabacher said his wife, Rhonda, called in the cavalry to pack them all up.

“My wife did a heroic job in mustering all of our friends and family to help us move out of there,” Rohrabacher told HOH about the expansive evacuation effort.

When asked about the condition of things on move-in day, Rohrabacher acknowledged that when they first arrived the house had been covered in “sheep white rugs.”

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo )

 

He admits the carpeting got a workout from his triplets, Christian, Annika and Tristen, but maintains that soiled floors are par for the course when dealing with youngsters.

“There was nothing in that house that was not normal wear and tear,” Rohrabacher said.

He did not directly address any of the other issues (rusted appliances, severed phone cords, broken toilet seats) Polyniak shared with the OC Weekly, stating only that Rhonda’s mother, Joanne Carmony, a realtor, was integrally involved in the top-to-bottom inspection process.

“She spent days cleaning that house so we would get our deposit back. And she was comfortable with it when we left,” he stated.

Additionally, Rohrabacher said Petros Berhane, a surfing buddy who also works in the real estate trade, snapped tons of photos that seem to tell a different story about how the home looked when the family last turned the locks.

“We took extensive pictures. And many of them seem to contradict the same spots that the OC Weekly showed,” he asserted. Rohrabacher said he plans to produce Berhane’s photos at the legal conference scheduled for April 2014.

Neither Polyniak nor Berhane responded to voice messages seeking comment about the housing feud.

If there is a silver lining to all this sordid business, it may be that Polyniak ultimately helped the Rohrabachers re-evaluate their living situation.

The congressman said that following the eviction, the entire family spent the following six months sleeping on Carmony’s floor. That motivated Rohrabacher to unload the townhouse he had purchased in D.C. nearly a decade ago, and then put that money toward the place they recently bought in Costa Mesa.

“It is not a million-dollar home,” Rohrabacher quipped of the homestead he said he snatched up for approximately $950,000. But given that he’s since joined the crash-on-your-office-couch caucus, it’s gotta beat waiting for everyone to clear out of Rayburn each night just to catch a few uninterrupted zzzs.

No Love Lost

Rohrabacher explained that he is well aware that the OC Weekly is not a fan.

“This is yet another example of where the OC Weekly has written another story that is totally wrong … whatever their motives are,” he charged.

The veteran pol suggested that the local paper has consistently published “bad” and “untrue” reports about him, including a scathing blog post piggybacking on another blog post speculating about his state of mind during a TV hit.

Rohrabacher assured HOH that while he’s no teetotaler, he hadn’t had “a single drop to drink” on the morning in question.

He said the OC Weekly hadn't bothered to ask about that, and also neglected to ask him about the rental house.

“They didn’t talk to me on this story,” he stated.