Owners of troubled Little Rock apartments held in contempt of court, fined $1,000 per day

Big Country Chateau, its holding company and parent company have not provided Pulaski County Circuit Court with required financial documents, per court records

By: - September 20, 2023 3:54 pm
Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin greets Big Country Chateau tenants (L-R) Clara Edmonston, Delores McDaniel and Jay Richard at a Jan. 26, 2023, tenants' rally in front of Little Rock City Hall. (Photo by Sonny Albarado)

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin greets Big Country Chateau tenants (Left to right) Clara Edmonston, Delores McDaniel and Jay Richard at a Jan. 26, 2023, tenants' rally in front of Little Rock City Hall. Big Country Chateau faces multiple legal troubles and was held in contempt of court by a Pulaski County Circuit Judge on Sept. 19, 2023. (Sonny Albarado/Arkansas Advocate)

A troubled Little Rock apartment complex, its holding company and its out-of-state parent company have each been fined $1,000 a day since Aug. 14 and will continue to be until they comply with a Pulaski County Circuit Court order from February, according to a Tuesday order from a judge holding them in contempt of court.

The Arkansas Attorney General’s Office sued Big Country Chateau, Apex Big Chateau AR and Apex Equity Group in August 2022, alleging deceptive business practices. The 151-unit complex on Colonel Glenn Road has also been facing a legal challenge from the city of Little Rock over unsafe living conditions since 2019.

Sal Thomas, a Texas-based third-party receiver for the apartments, has been overseeing the complex and collecting tenants’ rent and utility payments since Pulaski County Circuit Judge Cara Connors appointed him on Feb. 22.

Connors’ order appointing Thomas required the defendants to provide the court “an accounting of assets and all financial records,” including bank records, tax records and purchasing agreements pertaining to Big Country Chateau and its holding company within 21 days.

When the defendants did not provide the required documents, Attorney General Tim Griffin’s office filed a motion in April for Connors to hold the defendants in contempt of court.

On June 9, Connors scheduled a hearing for Aug. 14 to allow the defendants to make a case for why they should not be held in contempt. The defendants still had not given the documents to the court as of June 9, according to court records.

The defendants did not appear at the Aug. 14 hearing, though their legal counsel did. Based on this and their continued nonresponse to the order, Connors ruled Tuesday that the defendants are in contempt and each owe $1,000 per day as of the hearing date, according to court records.

Big Country Chateau residents nearly lost both water and electricity twice in a year after apartment management did not pay the utility bills with the money collected in rent payments as promised.

Former Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s office filed the consumer protection lawsuit against Big Country Chateau in light of the first nonpayment of utility bills. The complaint alleged that the complex had violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, which prohibits accepting consumers’ money for a previously agreed-upon purpose and not using the money for that purpose.

Violators of the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act can be fined up to $10,000 per violation.

Griffin took over the lawsuit in January when he succeeded Rutledge, who is now lieutenant governor.

Big Country Chateau faces its next city environmental court hearing Thursday. The property has a history of code violations, including ​​mold, broken windows, exposed electrical wiring and scattered garbage.

The city’s goal since June has been to move everyone out of the property and shut it down. As of the most recent city court hearing in August, 24 units were still occupied.

As of Wednesday, that number is now 17, city Housing Director Kevin Howard said in an interview. 100 Families, an initiative within the local nonprofit Restore Hope, has been helping the city relocate tenants.


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Tess Vrbin
Tess Vrbin

Tess Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants' rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri.